Oil giants partner with environmental group to track Permian Basin's methane emissions

Oil giants partner with environmental group to track Permian Basin's methane emissions 

James Osborne Sep. 17, 2020  houstonchronicle.com


WASHINGTON — Oil companies including Exxon Mobil and Chevron are partnering with an environmental think tank to track methane emissions coming out of the Permian Basin.

The abundant flaring of natural gas in the West Texas oil field has drawn concern from climate scientists, with methane being a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

"Climate change risks posed by methane and other greenhouse gas emissions are serious and warrant action,” Bart Cahir, a senior vice president at Exxon Mobil, said in a statement.

The Rocky Mountain Institute, a think tank based in Colorado, has developed a computer program to track emissions coming out of oil and gas fields, allowing companies to not only report their emissions to investor groups but track which technologies are best at reducing methane leaks.

The moves comes as the Trump administration has rolled back methane regulations, saying companies are best equipped to manage the leaks themselves, despite criticism from some in the industry that the Obama-era regulations were fair and necessary.

According to federal estimates, about 28 percent of the 570 million metric tons of methane emitted by the United States into the atmosphere comes from oil and gas drilling.


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Its my general understanding some of the technology may be useful in the Haynesville. 

I would think so however will Haynesville operators deploy it?  The Permian gets a lot of national attention but the Haynesville operators other than Chesapeake tend to fly under the radar.  With private companies doing most of the development, there is no shareholder pressure to measure fugitive emissions.  Unless the state mandates some monitoring, I don't think we will see any articles like this on the Haynesville Basin.

I wanted to "like"this posting but evidently we have to go through facebook to do so.  Please just know that your posting is appreciated.

Thanks, Will.  I didn't know that you had to use Facebook to do that but then again I do as little FB as possible.

I didn't know either till I tried to like it and the facebook thing popped up.  Oh well,......I also try to minimize fb.

When I hit the "like" button, nothing happens.  This may be a site glitch.  I'll ask Keith.

When I was head of measurement for one of the early major pipeline operations in the Haynesville, we utilized Flir (infrared cameras) and analytics to identify leaks and/or emissions.   This was driven a lot by economics.  With gas prices low, we had to find any edge we could.  We had our loss/ gain so tight that we could identify a possible leak in the morning when I reviewed the previous days data.  At today’s prices, no prudent operator can afford to ignore fugitive emissions.  The only caveat is if the remedy cost more than the capture.

Chad, are you aware of any current Haynesville operators or mid-stream companies that have robust leak detection programs?

All of the midstream companies that I’m familiar with have sophisticated leak detection programs.  All of the Compression and Treating stations are routinely filmed using FLIR (Infared cameras to detect Methane).  Drones using the same cameras are used in certain situations.  Physical ROW patrols are routinely performed with Methane detection devices and visual observations.  In certain high impact areas, aerial surveys are performed monthly.  The producers are not as robust, but that is because they have such small infrastructure.  The flow line from the well head to the meter is short and mostly above ground.  Leaks are easily detected and repaired.  They also benefit from the pipeline surveys as it is easy to scan the location when scanning the pipeline.  The largest source of producer emissions is tank batteries.  With the Haynesville being dry and condensate free, this source is practically eliminated.
Some of the emission data that has been used concerning the Haynesville come from the early days when we used natural gas to run all of the pneumatic equipment at the treating facilities.  With 12$ gas, we didn’t care how much we vented!  We were paid on the inlet meter and everyone accepted the shrink!  Also, in the early days, the producers owned a lot of the pipelines and profit centers where blurred.  When the gathering systems were sold off, they had to generate a profit on their own.  We now have modeling to determine what the shrink should be after removing the CO2 and H2S.  Operators will not accept excess.  This economic stimulus pushed the Midstream operators to clean up their emissions.  
This observation is only applicable to the modern Haynesville systems.  The legacy gathering systems that service the Cotten Valley and other fields can be quite porous!  But the relative volumes are very small.  

Thanks, Chad.  That is the most comprehensive overview that I have heard and makes me feel better as far as your explanation goes.  I assume that your comments are applicable to all the Haynesville focused operators. 

Would you consider it largely accurate that as conventional exploration and production in NW LA has sharply declined and most of those wells are older and well into their decline, the volumes leaked from those wells is also on a steep decline.  Lower volumes and lower pressures?

My observations predominantly come from independent midstream operators.  I can’t speak to the midstream’s that are still integrated with the operators.  I have not worked with them and they may or may not have the same economic pressures.  
As for your observation about the lower pressures/volumes leading to less emissions, this is true, but not entirely for those reasons alone.  A lot of the improvements came from improved operations, technology, and materials.  In the beginning, we used the same materials and fittings that we had been using for years.  We understood the pressures, but not the high temperatures and most critically, the abrasion from such extended high flow rates.  As a result, we had numerous gasket and fitting failures.  Today’s operators use materials that have been engineered for these demanding environments. (Ex Flextallic gaskets and cushioned tees.)  Just as important were the hiring of operational and engineering personnel with offshore and international experience with these conditions.  As an example, my company sent all of our Supervisors to offshore training and we actually received our Certificate to work offshore.  Measurement, monitoring, and sensor technology have also developed rapidly and can almost provide real-time Leak detection.  

Good to hear and a responsible move on your company's part.  In my business I deal from time to time with groups of older wells, some 70 to 80 years since their first production.  Some are marginal producers and some are shut-in, future utility (status code 33) or shut-in, no future utility (status code 34) and not plugged, many are "orphaned".  Those are the wells I am most concerned with and the ones I was thinking of when mentioning low volumes and pressures.


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