How Reducing Fugitive Emissions with Valves Can Minimize Costs for Alberta Oil and Gas Operations
by Thomas Webster, on Thu, Sep 02, 2021 @ 09:09 AM
Fugitive emissions are unintentional leaks of vapours or gases, typically methane, from pressurized equipment into the atmosphere. Oil and gas facilities have numerous potential sources of fugitive emissions, but valves are the most common culprits—in a typical facility, approximately 60% of fugitive emissions come from valves.
Fugitive emissions don’t just contribute to climate change, they also cost Alberta oil and gas companies significant amounts of money in the form of lost product. Therefore, it makes financial sense to invest in preventing fugitive emissions—and valves can play a major part. In this article, we’ll consider the financial consequences of fugitive emissions and how upgrading or replacing valves can be a cost-effective solution.
Fugitive Emissions Leak Product and Profits
Estimates show that the oil and gas industry in Canada loses over 30 billion cubic feet of methane gas to fugitive sources every year, equating to billions of dollars in lost product. Furthermore, regulatory penalties, fines, and emissions taxes can directly impact an oil and gas operation’s bottom line if fugitive emissions don’t comply with regulations.
Of course, the methane gas lost through fugitive emissions is valuable and can be sold if it is captured instead of emitted. Fortunately, there are many cost-effective ways to mitigate fugitive emissions with valves or other simple upgrades or repairs.
Reducing Fugitive Emissions with Valves
Because methane is invisible and odourless, leaks often go unnoticed. Historically, leak checks were performed on newly installed equipment using a soap bubble test or handheld sensor but not usually monitored or repaired after installation unless they became a significant enough safety hazard to trigger alarms. As a result, fugitive emissions at oil and gas facilities often went undetected. Today, an increasing number of facilities are monitoring and repairing fugitive emissions voluntarily or as required by government regulations.
Upgrade Old and Outdated Valves
Because they account for more than half of total fugitive emissions, upgrading valves is the natural place to start with emission reduction. Fugitive emissions often come from older valves not designed with the latest materials and technologies. Unfortunately, replacing every valve in the facility probably isn’t in the budget, but by inspecting and testing valves for leakage, you can identify the main sources of fugitive emissions and strategically upgrade valves where they will have the greatest impact.
Fugitive emissions from valves can be reduced by using “leakless” valve designs such as bellows valves and diaphragm valves. Replacing older valves with leakless options can be an effective way to address individual, chronic sources of emissions. When selecting valves to control emissions, be sure to consult a gas distribution system expert who can help you find the right design and materials to maximize reliability and efficiency.
Make Sure Valves Are Installed Correctly and Optimally
Often, fugitive emissions occur when valves are installed incorrectly; for example, valves installed in the wrong orientation or with inadequately supported piping weight on the valve. It’s especially important to check older valves that may need to be reinstalled or repaired. When replacement isn’t an option, you can still greatly reduce fugitive emissions from valves by ensuring they have proper packing and stem sealing.
Follow a Valve Preventive Maintenance Program
Even new, correctly installed valves can still leak if they aren’t properly maintained. Establishing and following a preventive maintenance program can ensure small leaks are detected before they become big ones.
Facilities can control fugitive emissions from valves and other equipment leaks by implementing a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program. An LDAR program typically consists of four elements:
- Identification of components to be included in the program
- Routine monitoring of included components
- Repairing any leaking components
- Reporting results
A valve and fluid system expert can perform an onsite consultation to help identify high-risk components and set up a monitoring and maintenance program.
For More Information on Fugitive Emissions and Valves, Look to the Experts
Fugitive emissions from valves affect the environment 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 to help reduce fugitive emissions from valves and other sources in your facility.
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.