The increasing concentration of methane in the atmosphere is of major concern for efforts to address the climate change challenge. Methane has significantly greater potential for global warming than CO2. Though natural gas is a relatively clean energy source, the loss of methane from oil and gas systems accounts for about 20% of global methane emissions. Reducing methane emissions should be the top priority for all emitting sources.
Oil and gas industries in the U.S are diverse and fast-growing. As a result, the emissions from this sector are also increasing constantly. These industries are the largest source for the emission of methane gas. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide1. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane gas emissions from the oil and gas industries are about eight million metric tons per year2.
Based on various studies conducted, the major source of methane emission in the oil and gas sector are centrifugal compressors equipped with oil seal technology. These compressors are major sources of emissions during oil and gas production, processing, transmission, and storage. Typically, these emissions increase over time as the compressor degrades3.
One of the best available technologies to reduce methane emissions from oil-sealed centrifugal compressors is Gas Seal technology. Seals on the rotating shafts of the compressor prevent high-pressure natural gas from escaping the casing. A new innovation from the John Crane Team at Smiths Group plc results in a cost-justifiable, turnkey, upgrade service for centrifugal compressor shaft seals. This technique involves retrofitting a specially adapted version of John Crane’s sector-leading Aura gas seal system onto legacy compressors4.
There are a wide range of additional technologies now available to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Even slight changes in operations that can reduce methane emissions will have a huge impact for a relatively small cost. The following general methodologies are used to reduce methane emissions5:
- Reconfiguring existing equipment
- Enhancing operational and maintenance procedures
- Detecting and repairing leaks
Projects that adopt strategies to reduce methane emissions realize conservation in natural gas usage. These projects often recover their costs in less than a year, bringing improvements in productivity and environmental performance. Performing even minor changes to the operations and equipment upgrades can reduce methane gas emissions, which can also yield significant economic and environmental benefits.
Satya is the resident Chemical Engineer here at SafetyStratus. She is focused on supporting and improving the Chemical Inventory and related products and services for the SafetyStratus platform. She has recently completed her master’s degree in Chemical Engineering. While relatively new to the business world, she has conducted cutting edge research, participated in several notable projects, and worked at a refinery, a steel processing plant, and, most notably, for the Center of Atomic Research. She is eager to use her skills and talents to share knowledge with the broader EHS community.
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