​Shell introduces new tech to minimize methane leakage in NEBC

Aerial view of the new Gen 4 multi-well pad, part of Shell's Groundbirch operations. Image: Shell

Shell Canada says it has gone above regulatory requirements with the installation of new technology to reduce methane emissions at its Groundbirch asset in Northeast B.C.

A new multi-well pad that came on stream in January 2018 is the first of what Shell calls Gen 4 includes electric valve actuators instead of pneumatic ones.

Shell’s Jason McGillivray explains that “Some of the valves used in typical industry processes are designed to vent small amounts of methane, and the emissions released from these valves in the Groundbirch field are an opportunity for improvement.”

According to a report on Shell’s website, McGillivray and his Groundbirch project team weighed the benefits and decided to move to a new multi well pad design with a zero-bleed philosophy (whereby methane is not “bled” or vented to the atmosphere).

“An actuator is the mechanism that works to open and close a valve,” the company says.

“The pneumatic version uses process gas from the well (methane) as a power source and as the actuator cycles; the compressed gas used to do the work is vented to the atmosphere. The electric actuator is driven by electric power, thus eliminating the methane emission source.”

The new design is also expected to increase production capacity by 40% and decrease costs by 15%. The first new well pad ranked number one in the province for top gas rates for initial well production in Januarym according to a report by Alta Corp Capital.

“Based on its success, electric actuators will be used on new well pads in Groundbirch going forward, and we’ll share our knowledge with other Shell assets for potential replication,” says McGillivray.

Last summer, Shell also launched a methane detection pilot at one of its shale gas sites near Rocky Mountain House, Alta. as part of the Methane Detectors Challenge, an initiative created by the Environmental Defense Fund.