Finding and fixing methane leaks adds up to overall emission reductions

Finding and fixing methane leaks adds up to overall emission reductions

Advanced technologies help reduce methane leaks.

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LEAK DETECTION AND REPAIR

Saving nickels and dimes will eventually add up to a tidy sum. In the same way, finding and fixing hard-to-detect methane sources can reduce overall emissions from a wellsite or natural gas facility.

The trick is locating fugitive emissions (unintended methane leaks) in the first place. Canada’s oil and natural gas producers use a number of methods for leak detection and repair (LDAR). The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) outlines basic requirements and methods for LDAR, while also accepting proposals for innovative and science-based alternative technologies.

At ARC Resources, fugitive emissions account for roughly 3% of the company’s total emissions. Continuous monitoring helps to identify these emissions sources. ARC has also developed an alternative Fugitive Emissions Management Program (Alt-FEMP) at their Kakwa facility in northwestern Alberta. The program includes aerial and ground-based surveys using two key technologies that scan the facility for methane emissions: optical gas imaging (OGI) cameras, and gas mapping light detection and ranging.

Across all 12 of their facilities in Alberta and B.C., ARC uses continuous emissions monitoring networks to find and fix leaks. Partnering with Qube Technologies, this program employs methane detection units armed with artificial intelligence. These units continuously scan the facility for methane emissions, using inputs from the Qube sensor system and air quality data including wind direction. This information is used to help identify methane emissions and trigger the leak repair process as soon as a leak is detected, resulting in shorter leak duration, which supports further methane reductions.

In 2020, Canadian Natural Resources implemented a FEMP of all its Alberta conventional oil and natural gas sites, implementing more than 4,000 optical gas imaging (OGI) surveys. In 2021, the AER approved three Alt-FEMP pilots for Canadian Natural sites including their heavy oil developments. These Alt-FEMPs combined aerial and vehicle-mounted methane detection as well as ground-based OGI.  The pilot technologies allow for increased survey frequency and estimation of emission rates, thereby reducing the potential time a leak can go undetected and aiding in the understanding of emission sources. As a result, Canadian Natural executed over 6,500 total LDAR surveys across the province.

LDAR has been part of Ovintiv’s emissions management practice for nearly 18 years. Using cameras, workers can identify leaks and initiate repairs to reduce methane emissions on-site. OGI surveyors can scan thousands of connection points from a safe distance, using the camera’s technology to see invisible methane leaks. When a leak is detected, the LDAR program includes three components for improvement:

  • Repair – OGI surveyors are trained to fix leaks upon detection.
  • Documentation – a digital logging system automatically integrates with the company’s regulatory compliance system, to track inspection dates, findings and repairs.
  • Data analysis and maintenance – by analyzing LDAR survey data, Ovintiv identifies specific facilities, components and equipment with greater potential for leaks, then proactively directs inspection and maintenance activities for these locations

Optical gas imaging cameras allow workers to scan an area for methane leaks.

(Photo courtesy of Ovintiv)