Out with the old, in with the NEW

Replacing older equipment with newer technology is one way to effectively reduce small-source emissions.

Reducing Methane Emissions

In the natural gas and oil industry, emissions come in all sizes. Some sources can emit relatively large volumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases; addressing these sources with technologies like carbon capture and storage (CCS) can reduce emissions dramatically. But taking care of smaller sources really adds up, and Canada’s natural gas and oil producers are continually finding better ways to eliminate those emissions.

Here’s just one example among many: Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural) has a methane reduction plan that includes replacing pneumatic devices, which control natural gas pressure and flow within a facility like a gas processing plant.

Pneumatic devices such as valves and pumps use pressurized natural gas to operate and some devices release small volumes of natural gas (which is mostly methane) as part of normal operation. Canadian Natural’s pneumatic retrofit program combats these small but collectively significant emissions by replacing older devices with new, more efficient ones.

From 2018 to 2021, Canadian Natural has completed over 6,400 pneumatic retrofits and removals resulting in a cumulative reduction of approximately 640,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent or CO2e. (What is this? See the sidebar below to learn more.) In 2022, Canadian Natural launched a multi-year project to convert approximately 3,800 pneumatic injection pumps in the company’s non-oil sands operations in Alberta and British Columbia to solar configurations. This project will help reduce methane emissions by up to an additional 361,000 tonnes of CO2e/year.

That’s good news, of course – but there’s more. Like most natural gas and oil producers in Canada, Canadian Natural collaborates with other companies and researchers to develop new technologies and share what they learn. These partner organizations include the Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN), Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). 

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Why 'Equivalent'?

The industry standard is to measure emissions as carbon dioxide (CO2) but methane is 25 times more potent than CO2 for trapping heat in the atmosphere. A math conversion is needed to show methane emissions as CO2 equivalent, or ‘CO2e.’