August 22, 2016 by Amy Bowman
Predicting Super Emitters
Methane and Hydrocarbon Emissions
Predicting Super Emitters
Defining leak in its verb form, according to dictionary.com:
to let a liquid, gas, light, etc., enter or escape, as through an unintended hole or crack.
Unintended as an adjective is defined as:
not intended; unplanned. If something is unintended and unplanned it is simply an accident.
Therefore, if methane and hydrocarbons are “leaked” into the atmosphere, by definition the result of an “accident”, cannot be predicted. Again by definition, if an accident cannot be predicted it cannot be eliminated, minimized to an extent, but not eliminated.
To provide additional clarity to the information below we should also define vent from the same source:
to be relieved of pressure or discharged by means of a vent.
Note that the definition of vent does not include a reference of intent by which the vent occurred. The reason there is no reference to intent is due to the fact that the event by which a vent occurs, by design, is through the relief of pressure. Simply put, a leak is not a vent and a vent is not a leak. Leaks are uncontrollable accidents, vents are purposeful.
In a thought provoking article by Jon Goldstein with EDF, “We flew over 8,000 oil and gas wells. Here’s what we found.” 1 Jon references a video, in which the first location is of the Aliso Canyon disaster of 2015, which was an accident, as the gas escaping into the atmosphere was not intentional. To demonstrate that this is not the case with the other examples in the video, all the other locations in the video, in which methane and gaseous hydrocarbons cascade out of the atmospheric hydrocarbon storage tanks are not leaks, these are, by design, intentional vents. The reason we classify these actions as vents is, due to the fact, that the oil and gas producer knew this would happen when the facility was designed and constructed.
Also, this event occurs on all production and transportation facilities in which the produced liquids are not properly processed before being dumped into the storage tanks. We estimate that these examples occur in over 90% of all production facilities all over the world and many have been classified as super emitters. It is also our assertion that because these events are NOT accidental, super emitters can be predicted. Since these events are predictable we can accurately simulate the frequency of the vent, the volume of the gas being vented and even the composition of the gas vaporizing into the atmosphere. There is no mystery in the last four examples, as shown in the rest of the video.
Based on my experience it seems that these emissions were a blind spot in our industry. We know these emissions existed because every oil and gas service company in the world takes safety precautions when working in these areas to prevent accidents due to the presence of explosive hydrocarbons. Other than the safety factors, we never considered the waste that was occurring all around us or the impact it had on the environment. We accepted as fact, that nothing could be done to completely eliminate these emissions but this is no longer the case.
Reviewing the issue of methane and hydrocarbon emissions, if emissions are predictable they are preventable. Emissions that occur as a result of neglect or the improper design of the process required preventing these emissions, it is not a leak it is a vent. In my opinion herein is the flaw in how emissions are regulated and what can be done to insure the oil and gas industry is held to the standard that these valuable resources are no longer wasted.
An honest discussion must begin detailing these problems. We are confident there are environmental professionals as well as oil and gas industry experts who are willing to work together to solve these problems. All of us at One Step In hope you will join us in this discussion.
Wiley Rhodes, Founder