Natural gas usage around the world is still on the rise for a number of reasons but a main one being it is better for the environment than other fossil fuels. Countries such as China are increasingly using it to power long distance trucking and countries like Ireland are considering using it to improve their energy security. However, as the main component of natural gas is methane, a major greenhouse gas, the accidental but inevitable emissions of this gas during the production, processing and distribution of natural gas constitute a significant threat to the environment. That is why energy companies BP, Eni, ExxonMobil, Repsol, Shell, Statoil, Total and Wintershall are committing to reducing emission in every part of their operations.
What the Problems Are
Methane escapes during every stage of the process of drilling for gas, producing it, processing it and transporting it to end users. These leaks aren’t just through mistakes or accidents. They occur through normal operation, routine maintenance and venting of equipment resulting in around 76 million tons of methane being emitted worldwide each year. Another issue in natural gas production and processing is gas flaring. In 2013, NASA released pictures of the Bakken formation flaring so much gas that the fires were visible from space. This is just part of the 140 billion cubic metres of natural gas which is burned wastefully in oil fields across the world releasing 300 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere equivalent to the emissions of approximately 77 million cars.
How they are Going to be Tackled
The Environmental Defence Fund, the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Gas Union, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative Climate Investments, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Sustainable Gas Institute, the Energy and Resources Institute, and United Nations Environment worked together to produce a Guiding Principles document which eight energy companies have signed. It focuses on continually reducing methane emissions, improving accuracy of methane emissions data, promoting sound policies and regulations on methane emissions and increasing transparency throughout. The International Energy Agency estimates that 40 to 50% of the methane emissions produced by the natural gas industry could be eliminated through these measures. To deal with the harm caused by gas flaring, 25 oil companies, oil-producing nations and development organisations signed an agreement in 2015 to end the practice of routine flaring of natural gas by 2030.
At What Cost?
Implementing new practices in oil and gas operations to prevent methane leaks is potentially a very expensive undertaking but Tim Gould of the International Energy Agency stated that, “Stepping up action to tackle methane leaks along the oil and gas value chain is essential to bolster the environmental case for gas: these emissions are not the only anthropogenic emissions of methane, but they are likely to be among the cheapest to abate.” He claims that the changes could be made at no net cost to the companies as the value of the methane captured would cover the costs of the changes.
Accurate data and measurement is vital in reducing methane emissions and is one of the areas for improvement listed in the Guiding Principles document. As such, Ex~i Flow Measurement are dedicated to providing accurate and adaptable flow measurement computers which are ideally suited to a wide range of oil and gas applications. To speak to someone about how we can help you, call +44 (0)1243 554920 or contact us here.