Why Reducing Fugitive Emissions in Alberta Oil and Gas Operations Is Critical
by Thomas Webster on Thu, Sep 09, 2021 @ 09:09 AM
Alberta oil and gas operations have started to become more aware of fugitive emissions—the unintended leaks of vapours or gases, typically methane, from pressurized equipment into the atmosphere. Fugitive emissions affect Alberta upstream, midstream, and downstream oil and gas operations by contributing to climate change, creating potential safety risks, and leaching significant amounts of revenue in the form of lost product.
In this article, we’ll look at the causes and consequences of fugitive emissions in Alberta in detail. We’ll show you how a local vendor can help reduce fugitive emissions through expert evaluation and high-quality components and systems.
Sources of Fugitive Emissions in Alberta
Almost every step of the oil and gas process creates fugitive emissions. Alberta gas processing plants, gas pipelines, conventional oil fields, and oil sands all emit methane gas, though upstream sources are the largest contributors.
In natural gas production, most gas is transported by pipeline from the wellhead to a processing plant. The systems in these plants contain thousands of valves, connections, and other parts and components that can be sources of fugitive emissions. Pipeline compressor stations, which are usually gas-powered, are the main sources of fugitive emissions in Alberta gas pipelines.
Alberta’s oil sands operations differ from conventional oil production and have unique emissions risks. Fugitive emissions in Alberta oil and gas operations can come from oil sands processing in open pit mining as well as from SAGD operations. Both open-pit mine and SAGD operations use natural gas as fuel, and fugitive emissions can come from piping, meters, and other components.
Fugitive Emissions Contribute to Climate Change
Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas with a short‐term warming effect many times greater than carbon dioxide—meaning preventing fugitive emissions can have a significant, immediate impact on climate change reduction. Research suggests that mitigation of methane fugitive emissions is a critical part of the fight against climate change.
Alberta has implemented some policies requiring fugitive emissions reductions. Oil and gas facilities in Alberta are required to check for and repair leaks. By installing lower emission-rated products, facilities can reduce overall future emissions. This could lead to reduced inspection and reporting times, as inspection and reporting are a significant cost to end-users.
By taking proactive steps to reduce fugitive emissions, companies can demonstrate their commitment to stopping climate change while ensuring compliance with Alberta fugitive emissions regulations and protecting the environment.
Fugitive Emissions Can Create Health and Safety Risks
Whenever flammable liquids and gases are contained under pressure, any emissions increase the risk of fire and explosion. In addition, methane and other volatile gases can pose a health risk to personnel and the surrounding community if fugitive emissions are not properly controlled. For example, the methane produced is not always strictly CH4; other more dangerous gases such as H2S can be present.
Despite these health and safety concerns, natural gas production is completely safe when the appropriate steps are taken to prevent fugitive emissions. Alberta oil and gas companies should keep in mind the potential dangers of unmitigated fugitive emissions, however. It’s essential to monitor and repair even the smallest potential leak points to maintain safe and efficient operations.
Fugitive Emissions Cost Alberta Companies Money
Even when they don’t cause serious problems like fires, leaks cost money. According to estimates, Canada’s oil and gas industry loses over 30 billion cubic feet of methane as fugitive emissions every year. Of course, that lost methane is valuable and can be sold if it is captured. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective ways to mitigate fugitive emissions with valves or other simple upgrades or repairs, and because of the value of the gas that can be conserved, they often have a limited net cost or even increase revenue.
Because fugitive emissions cost Alberta oil and gas companies significant amounts of money in the form of lost product, it makes financial sense to invest in preventing them. Relatively small improvements like upgrading valves and replacing threaded connections with flanged connections can be a cost-effective way to reduce fugitive emissions and potentially increase profits.
Local Experts Can Help Reduce Fugitive Emissions in Alberta Oil and Gas Operations
Fugitive emissions affect the environment, safety, and your bottom line. Whether you’re working towards compliance with governmental regulations or looking to adopt best practices, you can trust Edmonton Valve & Fitting to protect your people, processes, and profitability. Our Field Advisors can perform an onsite evaluation and provide recommendations on high-quality Swagelok components and systems that can help reduce fugitive emissions.
Swagelok valves, without design modification or special ordering instructions, passed the American Petroleum Institute’s Low-E test for fugitive emissions. By using Swagelok valves, you don’t just comply with the strictest regulations in the industry, you also ensure your processes are protected by the most advanced components available. Plus, all our products are backed by Swagelok’s best-in-class Limited Lifetime Warranty—so you never have to worry about replacing components.