It’s estimated that methane leakage from oil and gas wells in Alberta accounts for approximately 3.5 megatonnes of emissions every year. Reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector is a key component of Alberta’s Climate Leadership Plan, and it’s an area that has spawned commitments from Canada, Mexico and the United States.

ERA has invested in projects that address methane.

“I’m excited to see where these will go,” says ERA’s Director of Projects, Mark Summers. “We’ve supported terrific projects that directly address methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and the learnings from these initiatives will support further methane emissions reductions in Alberta.”

Putting Methane to Good Use

ERA invested in a pilot project with Encana Corporation that involves installing 59 different vent gas capture units in natural gas compressor stations. Compressor stations help with the transportation of natural gas, and vent methane during the process. The SlipStream technology that Encana uses captures methane and feeds it back into the stream to help fuel the compressor, resulting in increased fuel recovery and fewer GHG emissions. It’s estimated that this technology will reduce GHG emissions by more than 450,000 tonnes by 2020.

Using Controllers to Reduce Emissions and Increase Efficiency

Cenovus installed two different energy efficient technologies that also reduce methane emissions, including this installation at Suffield C Station, K-2 Compressor.
Cenovus installed two different energy efficient technologies that also reduce methane emissions, including this installation at Suffield C Station, K-2 Compressor.

Cenovus Energy installed air/fuel ratio controllers and vent gas capture on engines in gas compression facilities across Alberta. Mechanical engines in the facilities burn natural gas, injecting air into it. The more fuel in the air fuel mixture, the richer the burn and the more GHGs emitted. The air/fuel ratio controllers optimize the ratio of air to fuel to allow for a leaner burn, leading to increased efficiency and decreased emissions.

Small, Efficient Steps have a Big Impact

Sean Hiebert, ConocoPhillips Canada's Operations Efficiency Team Lead, showcasing a RemVue 500AS control panel.
Sean Hiebert, ConocoPhillips Canada’s Operations Efficiency Team Lead, showcasing a RemVue 500AS control panel.

ConocoPhillips implemented 10 different technologies to help set the standard for industry best practices in GHG emission reduction technologies. High to low/no bleed instrument conversion involves reducing the methane bleed from the natural gas used to operate machines and instrumentation. This instrument conversion demonstration was the most successful technology for ConocoPhillips. They estimate that the GHG emissions reduction for this project are about 1 megatonne over a 20-year life span.

Another technology called REMVue improves the efficiency of fuel injection by reusing emitted exhaust gases to power the engine. ConocoPhillips believes this project has the potential to reduce GHG emissions by 350,000 tonnes over two years. In recognition of their work, ConocoPhillips was the recipient of an Alberta Emerald Award in 2016 for Implementing and Sharing Energy Efficiency Innovation.

“Over the last five years, with the implementation of all of our green projects, we’ve reduced about 470,000 tonnes of carbon equivalency,” says Sean Hiebert of ConocoPhillips. “That’s something to be proud of.”

Building a Better Seal for Wells

Calgary-based Seal Well has developed a technology that reduces methane emissions by sealing wells with a bismuth-based alloy that is superior to concrete.
Calgary-based Seal Well has developed a technology that reduces methane emissions by sealing wells with a bismuth-based alloy that is superior to concrete.

In addition to projects that test new technologies, ERA also invested in a project by Calgary-based company Seal Well to support the development of their new technology. Today, Alberta oil and gas companies use concrete to seal wells once they are no longer in use, but concrete deteriorates over time—resulting in methane leaks. Seal Well developed technology that uses a bismuth-based alloy to seal oil and gas wells for the lifetime of the well. Seal Well estimates that, if they seal 750 wells in Alberta by 2025, GHG emissions will be reduced by 43,000 tonnes per year.

Seventy per cent of methane in Alberta is generated by the energy industry and these technologies have the potential to make an important contribution to help Alberta and Canada meet GHG reduction commitments.