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8 Methods to Reduce Methane Emissions in Oil and Gas Production

In the natural gas and oil industry, methane gets released when natural gas is vented or flared. Measurements of methane in the atmosphere show that the amount of methane released contributes to the greenhouse effect. The emission of methane often happens in small leaks known as fugitive emissions.

The leaks come from valves and other equipment used in oil and natural gas production. Minimizing methane emissions is the first step in winning the fight against climate change. However, efforts to reduce methane emissions are held back by a lack of reliable data.

How do Methane Emissions Contribute to Climate Change? 

Methane causes climate change by trapping the sun’s heat in the atmosphere. Trapping heat from the sun causes average temperatures to rise. The gas also contributes to the formation of an ozone layer which decreases the air quality. This effect often results in various health issues such as reduced crop yields and premature human deaths.

Minimizing the quantities of methane released into the atmosphere will reduce these effects. By just focusing on anthropogenic and methane emissions alone, we can decrease the global warming rate considerably.

Recommended Technologies to Minimize Methane Emissions

Some critical areas in the measurement of methane emissions and efforts to minimize them include:

1. Change Existing Equipment

Existing or old equipment can malfunction and not manage to reduce methane emissions. For example, natural gas-driven pneumatic devices get used in measuring variables like liquid levels, pressure, and temperature through the gas and oil industry.

With time, if these devices are not well maintained, they might vent natural gas by design. However, a high bleed device can lower gas emissions significantly. Therefore, they need to get retrofitted well to reduce the bleeding rate.

2. Improve Maintenance Practices and Operational Procedures

Proper maintenance and improved operational procedures can primarily minimize methane emissions with relatively little effort and cost. Directed inspection and maintenance (DI&M) are one of the enhanced procedures that have proved to have played a considerable role in this. The program uses specialized equipment to measure and identify methane emission sources.

Together with other programs, this program facilitates a better understanding of the different sources and volumes of emissions. The advantage is that appropriate mitigation projects get prioritized to achieve cost-effective and practical emission reduction procedures. The DI&M program gets applied in natural gas production and upstream oil operation industries.

3. Study and Undertake New Capital Projects

Sometimes to reduce methane emission requires a change to the process and installation of a new capital project. For example, crude oil storage tanks often vent valuable hydrocarbons and as well methane.

Installation of a vapor recovery unit can help capture the released methane for sale or use as gas. The procedure virtually eliminates methane emissions as well as directing valuable hydrocarbon streams for beneficial use.

4. Replace Burst Plates With Secondary Relief Valves

Burst plate or rupture discs are relief protection valves that protect gas equipment when the gas pressure exceeds the maximum allowable operating pressure. The plates are usually for one-time use only. If the burst plates break, a significant amount of methane and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could vent into the atmosphere.

Avoiding such cases requires broken vessels to be replaced with new plates.

5. Inspect Flow lines Annually

All gas wells contain flow lines that usually transport natural gas to processing plants or compressor stations. The flow lines are buried underground and can sometimes leak methane because of internal leakages, external corrosion, and abrasion from thermal cycling.

The leakage of methane from flow lines is a significant source of emissions in the industry at large. Minimizing the leakages requires an annual flow line inspection.

Through the assessment, you can discover underground leaks using digital radiography, ultrasound detectors, aerial surveys utilizing infrared beams, infrared cameras, or remote methane leak detectors operating infrared rays. Regular inspection and repair of underground leaks will prevent minor leaks from increasing in volume over time.

6. Foster Innovation and Technology Deployment

Several basic innovation designs can help to minimize methane emissions. Innovations to deliver accurate and reliable measurements, as well as to detect emissions, should always be a priority.

The public and private sectors should play a key role in ensuring such technologies get incorporated into the industry. Digitization efforts should relentlessly get embedded in methane emission management. As a result, the issue of emitting methane into the atmosphere will significantly reduce.

7. Emphasize on Collection

Current methane emission levels are highly uncertain. Raising clarity and improving on an understanding of the situation requires that we consistently measure critical factors. To make it a success, measure progress against goals and refine and develop targets and objectives.

These are often significant gaps that require attention in gas-consuming and producing regions. Filling the addressed data gaps will effectively ensure that methane emissions from oil and gas get addressed.

8. Establish Adequate Enforcement

Devising a practical and working system is one significant way of managing and reducing methane emissions. The design needs to decide on how to carry out roles relating to regulations and oversight.

In addition to that, the system needs to determine an institution responsible for enforcement and regulations. The institution should get enough resources as well as proper leadership. Disincentives that support behavioral change like penalties for non-compliance can be applied to help mitigate the issue at hand.

Managing and controlling methane gas emissions is not a simple task. It requires coordination and support from all the involved groups. Some key players in this industry include environmental organizations, academics, various oil and gas industries, and public health and safety agencies. In addition to that, you can also seek help from professional game players in the industry, such as Melzer Consulting. The organization has been in the market for quite some time and has good experience in the CO2Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) industry. Melzer Consulting consults for several governmental organizations and commercial clients on business and technical aspects of the fast-growing field of CO2 EOR.

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