​Methane emissions limits putting focus on new leak remediation technologies

Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

Despite a recent setback in limiting methane emissions with U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to scrap the previous administration’s regulations—to cut emissions from oil and gas wells to 40 per cent below 2012 levels by 2025—increasing numbers of jurisdictions are moving to limit them.

Both the Alberta and the federal governments have set methane reduction targets in recent years. Alberta will reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations by 45 per cent by 2025, and Canada signed an agreement with the U.S. last year targeting similar reductions.

And even while Trump attempts to roll back U.S. federal targets, individual states are moving ahead with new restrictions. California, for example, approved new rules in March aimed at meeting targets the state first set in 2015: a 40 per cent reduction in methane emissions by 2030, below 2013 levels, set to go into effect in 2018.

Where they apply to the oil and gas industry, they typically require companies to capture methane emitted from new wells and to find and plug leaks in pipelines and other infrastructure.

The increased focus on fugitive emissions could be a boon to companies offering new technologies to detect and seal leaky infrastructure. Calgary-based Sealweld, which was recently acquired by KMG, is one of those hoping to benefit.

“We take the effects of anthropogenic climate change very seriously and have been working diligently to improve the quality of fittings used on valves so as to reduce emissions. Incredibly, there are no national or global standards for the design and performance for valve fittings,” says Norah Pierdant, business development manager.

When it comes to things like pipeline construction, where line pipe and valves offer traceability, fittings are often neglected or ignored, Pierdant says, despite the fact that studies have shown they can contribute significantly to fugitive emissions. She notes a B.C. Ministry of Environment study of emission sources from the B.C. oil and gas sector found that 7.6 per cent of emissions, or 784,300 tonnes CO2 equivalent greenhouse gases, originated from fugitive equipment leaks from valves and connectors.

Sealweld is “thinking a little bit ahead of the game when it comes to environmental regulations, especially when it comes to pipeline construction,” Pierdant says. “We are investing in minimizing leaks around the world, and we hope to start a trend where oil and gas companies and valve manufacturers take more responsibility of this important fact.”

The company’s fittings—which were recently validated by inspection company SGS—offer virtually zero leakage for pipeline and wellhead lubrication applications or when a valve is leaking and requiring sealant injection efforts, says Pierdant.

Sealweld has also invested in research to understand fitting failures. In collaboration with oil and gas producers and pipeline operators and through extensive cooperation with local and international regulatory and administrative bodies, it has designed valve fittings capable of meeting and exceeding energy industry demands, Pierdant says.

As a sign of the company’s growth, Sealweld opened a new training facility in its Houston office in 2016. “We are investing in minimizing leaks around the world, and we hope to start a trend where oil and gas companies and valve manufacturers take more responsibility of this important fact.”

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