At the end of last year, the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) launched a series of workshops to help small and medium oil and gas producers improve their environmental performance.
The workshops focus on methane reduction technologies and best practices and kicked off on December 12 with an information session called “Methane and air emissions – Compliance and cost reduction.”
This primer on methane and air emissions discussed the unfolding regulatory requirements and delved into some examples of field implementation of emissions reduction equipment and technologies.
It was followed by another information session on January 10, “IT tools for cost reduction & operational improvements,” and a mini showcase on January 31, “Deployment-ready new technologies for cost reduction and environmental and efficiency improvements in oil and gas operations,” which featured 18 exhibitors highlighting the benefits of their solutions.
The series will continues through 2017 and is free to PTAC members and small producers.
“The big companies that have technology departments are typically in a better position to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on their own, but small and medium-size enterprises are often so focused on the day-to-day business of making oil and gas and reducing costs that they may not be aware of all the innovation and technologies that could improve their environmental footprint as well as their bottom line,” says Soheil Asgarpour, PTAC’s president.
With government-mandated methane reduction targets on the horizon (Alberta aims to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations 45 per cent by 2025), PTAC wants to provide wider access to some of the collaborative industry research it has been involved in. In fact, over the course its history, PTAC has completed more than 500 research and development projects and evaluated the benefits of each of those projects in terms of increased production and reserves, reduced environmental footprint and added value. A report of these findings is available on PTAC’s website.
Within this body of research, 29 technology projects are related to methane emission reduction. They include work on methane detection, methane reporting and ways to mitigate emissions.
“The methane mitigation is not just about reducing emissions, but making money as well,” Asgarpour says. “I’ve said it before: the old paradigm was that there is a trade-off between financial and environmental performance, but with innovation, we can do both at the same time.”
Methane capture adds value to producers’ bottom lines if that methane can be used in the field, if other benefits are packaged with the methane capture or if equipment that would normally need replacing is upgraded with higher-efficiency technology.
High-to-low bleed pneumatic control device conversions, for example, represent one of the lowest-cost and highest-impact routes to reducing methane emissions in the province because of the sheer number of these devices in the industry. Dehydration optimization, a SlipStream technology that captures blow-by methane in reciprocating compressors and reroutes it into the air intake manifold for combustion, and REMVue’s air-fuel ratio control system retrofit for natural gas engines to improve performance and reliability are both higher-cost technologies that capture methane but also improve operational performance.
In the absence of government incentives or a viable CO2 emissions offset market, emissions capture alone is still a tough sell. REMVue has to date been mostly sold on improved reliability and production. The technology provides 50 per cent better fuel efficiency and lower emissions from the tailpipe.
“Market uptake for REMVue is about 10 per cent of the whole industry so far,” Asgarpour says. “The carbon offset from that technology on a yearly basis is equal to taking 150,000 cars off the road. At the same time, industry is reducing their costs by $50 million per year.”
PTAC is committed to working collaboratively to help the industry meet government emission targets. Asgarpour notes that collaboration has become a bit of an industry catchphrase, especially in the oilsands, where stakeholders are finding the best way to tackle environmental and social licence challenges is to pool resources toward finding solutions.
Collaboration, however, has always been a core value for PTAC. In its early days, the organization acted more like a matchmaker between suitable research and development parties. But over the past 11 years, that role evolved to where PTAC now launches projects through the formation of consortia and acts as a project manager or facilitator.
“We also provide seed money to these projects, up to 15 per cent, with no expectation of any ownership or a financial benefit to our organization,” Asgarpour says.
As the industry moves into a carbon-constrained future, PTAC is getting good attendance numbers at its methane emissions sessions and workshops.
“These are practical applications and innovative technology solutions that are readily available for implementation, which can reduce costs and lower environmental impacts while increasing production and reserves,” Asgarpour says. “These sessions will aid in the creation of a win-win scenario for all stakeholders and will contribute to the healthy expansion of the Canadian oil and gas industry’s innovation ecosystem.”