Reducing fugitive emissions, particularly methane, is a major priority in the fight against climate change. The EPA estimates that 45% of total methane emissions come from the production segment of the oil and natural gas industry, and earlier this year, the Obama administration announced the first-ever plan to regulate emissions from this industry.
Here are seven ways you can reduce fugitive emissions along your pipeline.
Replace old, outdated valves
Valves have been a large focus of fugitive emissions reduction efforts because valve leakage accounts for more than half of total fugitive emissions. However, the problem is mainly old valves that weren’t designed using the latest materials and technologies. By inspecting and testing your valves to identify which ones are causing the highest levels of fugitive emissions, you can determine where to invest your resources to have the most impact.
Make sure your valves are installed correctly
Our technicians are frequently called out to job sites to diagnose valve leakage problems. Often, they find that the problem valves were installed incorrectly. For example, they were installed horizontally or the discharge piping is putting weight on the valve.
For more information on how to prevent emissions related to improper installation, read 3 Things to Avoid When Installing and Operating Safety Valves.
Follow a valve preventative maintenance program
If new valves built using the newest technologies were installed correctly but are still leaking, it’s probably because they haven’t been properly maintained. Following a preventative maintenance program can help you identify and stave off small problems before they become big ones.
Don’t forget about the “easy” fixes
While valves account for a large percentage of fugitive emissions, simple fixes at other locations can also make a difference. For example, 15% of fugitive emissions come from flanges and pumps, so tightening pipe flanges is an easy way to make smaller reductions.
You can also meet emissions compliance by installing low emissions valve packing, which is flexible, doesn’t shrink, and won’t absorb moisture.
Monitor your system for leaks
Leaks can exist throughout a system. According to Princeton engineering professor Mark Zondlo, many methane leaks are caused not by faulty equipment, but by unpredictable factors, like a valve that gets stuck open. Currently, Zondlo says, there is a lot of “guessing” about where and how often these leaks happen. New technologies are focusing on more reliable methods of leak detection.
Replace high-bleed pneumatic devices with low-bleed ones
In the gas industry, pneumatic devices are often used to operate valves and control liquid and pressure levels. The EPA suggests that as many as 80% of high-bleed devices can be replaced or retrofitted. The cost of the implementation is usually made back within a year through reducing gas-bleed losses.
Implement a directed inspection and maintenance (DI&M) program at compressor stations
On gas pipelines, compressor stations are a main source of fugitive emissions. A DI&M program involves conducting a baseline survey to identify and quantify leaks, followed by a cost-effective repair program. The EPA estimates that the gas savings from DI&M pays for the installation costs in about 2 to 4 months.
Fugitive emissions are a large and growing concern. These strategies aim to minimize the potential for leaks and, when leaks do occur, to detect and correct them as quickly as possible.