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Meet and Exceed Fugitive Emissions Standards for Valves in Alberta Refineries

by Thomas Webster, on Thu, Sep 30, 2021 @ 10:09 AM

A worker checking equipment for compliance with fugitive emissions standards for valves.

Fugitive emissions—the unintentional leaks of vapours or gases (typically methane) from pressurized equipment into the atmosphere—have been the focus of increasingly strict standards and regulations in Alberta. In addition to industry standards, the Canadian federal government and the provincial government of Alberta have set fugitive emissions standards for valves with specific testing and reporting requirements. Understanding these standards and regulations is essential to ensure compliance.

Because valves are one of the biggest sources of fugitive emissions in any refinery, valve selection is one of the most important ways to ensure compliance with standards and regulations. In this article, we’ll summarize the regulations and industry standards governing fugitive emissions, then look at some of the main causes of valve leakage and how they can be prevented. 

Overview of Alberta Fugitive Emissions Regulations

Canada has fugitive emissions standards for valves at both the federal and provincial levels. Regulations target new and existing emission sources throughout the oil and gas industry mainly by requiring operators to implement a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program with specific measurement, testing, recordkeeping, and reporting requirements.

Federal regulations are governed by the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999. This legislation requires oil and gas facilities to maintain an LDAR program with specific inspection and reporting requirements. A leak is defined as at least 500 ppmv of hydrocarbons. Additionally, it specifies that at least 95 percent of hydrocarbon gas routed to processing equipment must be captured and conserved.

Alberta’s provincial emissions standards for upstream and midstream oil and gas operations are driven by Directive 017: Measurement Requirements for Oil and Gas Operations and Directive 060: Upstream Petroleum Industry Flaring, Incinerating, and Venting. In terms of fugitive emissions, these directives require annual surveys for gas plants and compressor stations with less than 0.01 mol/kmol H2S, controlled liquid hydrocarbon storage tanks, and controlled produced water storage tanks and annual surveys for gas plants and compressor stations with greater than 0.01 mol/kmol H2S, batteries, custom treating facilities, terminals, and injection/disposal facilities. 

API Fugitive Emissions Standards for Valves

While federal and provincial legislation set legal requirements for reducing fugitive emissions in Alberta oil and gas facilities, component-specific standards are set by the American Petroleum Institute (API), which publishes the most commonly used fugitive emissions standards for valves. These standards are regularly updated, and if Alberta refineries do not comply with the latest standards, they can lose their certifications and face safety consequences. 

API 622 sets strictly defined standards for testing valve packing, the most common source of fugitive emissions. The test consists of a standardized test fixture with specific bore finish, length, and shaft finish requirements. The packing is installed in the fixture and tested using dry methane gas at a defined pressure and temperature cycle. The maximum allowable leakage at any time during the test is 100 ppm.

API 624 and API 41 define similar tests applicable to rising stem valves and quarter-turn valves, respectively. These standards also set maximum allowable fugitive emissions at 100 ppm. Manufacturers must fulfill these testing requirements and meet their fugitive emissions standards for valves to be API-compliant.

Causes of Valve Leakage and How to Prevent Them

In a typical oil and gas facility, valves are responsible for approximately 60 percent of fugitive emissions. Leaks can be caused by valves wearing out or failing over time, being improperly installed, or loosening due to vibration. Leaks are usually easy to detect, and the component can often be immediately refitted, repaired, or replaced.

Upgrading valves with the latest technology is a high-impact way to ensure compliance with fugitive emissions standards for valves. Leaks often come from older valves made with inferior materials or dimensional tolerances. By inspecting and testing older valves for leaks, you can identify the main sources of fugitive emissions and strategically upgrade valves where they will have the greatest impact. For chronic sources of fugitive emissions, leakless valve designs like bellows valves and diaphragm valves can help significantly reduce emissions over time.

Often, fugitive emissions occur when valves are installed incorrectly; for example, valves installed in the wrong orientation or under inadequately supported weight. It’s especially important to check older valves for these issues. Ensuring proper packing and stem sealing can be an effective way to extend valve life while limiting fugitive emissions.

When selecting valves to control fugitive emissions, be sure to consult a fluid handling systems expert who can help you choose the right design and materials for your application. They can also identify high-risk components and help set up or improve your LDAR program.

Consult with an Expert for Top-Quality Valves and Components

Whether you’re working towards compliance with fugitive emissions standards for valves or you want to exceed the minimum requirements for improved performance, you can trust Edmonton Valve & Fitting to provide advice and components to maximize your facility’s efficiency and reliability. Our expert Field Advisors can perform an onsite evaluation and give 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 globally recognized American Petroleum Institute’s Low-E test for fugitive emissions. Unlike other testing standards, API requires the use of methane for testing as well as thermal cycling to simulate process conditions. Swagelok valves with third-party API Low-E testing certificates make it easy to comply with Low-E requirements, including EPA consent decrees that often require Low-E valves. No other valve manufacturer can provide the range of certified valve sizes and types as Swagelok.

To find out more about how Edmonton Valve & Fitting can help you reduce fugitive emissions and improve efficiency with high-quality Swagelok valves, contact us through our website or by calling 780-437-0640.
Topics:ValvesField Advisory Services

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