Going, going, green

Methane, emissions control, CCS, climate, politics ... from Stanford, Bluefield, Bluesource, Office of Fossil Energy, NETL, IOGP, ISO, IFPen, Aerovia, NanoVapor, NAP, Oxy, White Energy, WellDog, Virginia Tech, Carbon GeoCycle, ExxonMobil, IEA, Integrated Informatics, Equinor, Opus 12, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Texas Railroad Commission.

A new study from Stanford University, published in the Journal Science, finds that US oil and gas methane emissions are 60% higher than the EPA reports. The study was led by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) researchers, with co-authors from 15 other institutions including Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. Fifty oil and gas companies provided site access and technical advice. The researchers measured emissions at over 400 well pads in six basins, scores of midstream facilities and conducted aerial surveys covering large swaths of oil and gas infrastructure. EDF recently announced plans to launch MethaneSAT, a purpose-built satellite designed to measure and map human-caused methane emissions almost anywhere on earth. Due to launch in 2021, MethaneSAT will help both countries and companies track problem areas, find solutions, and monitor their progress.

Bluefield’s satellite-based methane detection technology is claimed to detect natural gas leaks by measurement of ‘distortions’ in sunlight reflecting from the earth surface. Bluefield recently got VC backing from Village Global, a VC backed by Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

Quebec-based Inlandsis is to support Bluesource’s methane reduction program in Alberta. The program reduces methane emissions from upstream oil and gas operations and will generate offset credits under Alberta’s Carbon Competitiveness incentive regulations. Bluesource is to replace thousands of pneumatic devices across Alberta with low-emissions valves. The MRP is projected to reduce some 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2022. The first offset credits are expected to be delivered this fall.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected five new projects for $11.3 million federal funding for cost-shared R&D. The projects are supported through the funding opportunity DE-FOA-0001792, ‘Novel and enabling carbon capture transformational technologies’. The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) is to oversee the projects whose focus is mainly on capture of CO2 from electricity generation (as opposed to sequestration).

Earlier this year, NETL announced a joint venture with the industry-backed ‘Our nation’s energy future’ (ONE Future) to research methane emissions from natural gas production and delivery. The initiative is to enable the development of US shale gas and ‘move the nation closer to a broader policy goal of energy dominance’. NETL is using its expertise in methane life-cycle analysis (LCA) to benchmark member companies’ methane performance against the industry average. LCA encompasses the environmental, economic and social attributes of energy systems, from extractionthrough transport and use. The LCA model is claimed to be ‘one of the most sophisticated energy models that, in combination with other analytical data, enables policymakers and the public to discern the impact of technology-policy choices’. A report, ‘Industry partnerships and their role in reducing natural gas supply chain greenhouse gas emissions’ is available from NETL.

The UK-headquartered IOGP has signed-on to the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s ‘methane guiding principles’ (MGP). The MGP emanates from a coalition of international bodies including the Environmental Defense Fund, the IEA and the UN. The principles focus on reducing methane emissions and improving accuracy of methane emissions data and increasing transparency. The IOGP’s commitment does not as yet extend to its members although BP, Chevron, Eni, ExxonMobil, Qatar Petroleum, Repsol, Shell, Statoil, Total, Wintershall and Woodside have signed independently.

A new ISO standard is claimed as a ‘powerful new weapon’ in the fight against climate change. ISO 14080:2018, greenhouse gas management and related activities provides a framework and methodologies for GHG reduction. The standard is confidential and costs CFH158.

IFPen and partner Aerovia report deployment of their jointly-developed GasMap methane detection service at an underground gas storage site. GasMap uses Aerovia’s QCNose onboard a vehicule to sample methane concentrations at ground level and in the atmosphere. Data is integrated with real time weather feeds and modeled to distinguish between industrial and biogenic gas sources.

NanoVapor has announced a ‘disruptive’ technologies to reduce hazardous fuel vapors (VOCs) in aviation, oil and gas and industrial markets. NanoVapor’s proprietary vapor suppressant and scrubber is optimized for hydrocarbons such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuels, and crude oil. More from NanoVapor.

Carbon capture and sequestration

The US National Academies Press has just published the 13 page Proceedings of a 2017 workshop on carbon mineralization and the subsurface storage of CO2. There are four storage/uses of CO2: (1) injection into depleted oil and gas reservoirs, (2) use of CO2 as part of enhanced oil and gas recovery, (3) injection into deep saline formations (onshore and offshore) and (4) use of CO2 in enhanced coal bed methane recovery (and possibly shale). Stanford researcher Sally Benson put the potential global storage capacity at ‘between 5,000 and 25,000 giga tonnes*’ of CO2 and reported that ‘large-scale projects for capturing CO2 from anthropogenic sources and storing it underground are expanding worldwide**.’ The workshop includes state of the art reports on CCS projects and computer modeling exercises from around the world.

* The upper end number is around half of worldwide CO2 emissions from fossil fuels.

** We have previously reported on a marked slow-down in CCS trials – see our 2017 editorial, ‘COP23 BECCS, FECCS and the future of fossil fuel.’

A Stanford University analysis published in the Journal Joule proposes a model for how relatively small government payments could encourage carbon capture and storage (CCS). The proposal is for payments to companies performing EOR with CO2 from refineries, power plants and other sources contributing to climate change. A tenfold increase in the amount drawn from these sources could shrink the nation’s climate emissions by 10%, ‘even when accounting for the additional oil extraction made possible by injecting all that carbon’. More from Stanford.

Occidental Petroleum and White Energy have embarked on a feasibility study of CO2 use in enhanced oil recovery. CO2 from White’s ethanol facilities will be transported to the Permian Basin for EOR. The project results from the passage of the US Future Act and is designed to be eligible for 45Q tax credits and California’s Low carbon fuel standard CCS protocol. The Future Act, which became law in February 2018, addresses the conversion of CO2 emissions from industrial sources to a commodity product ‘that can be stored in a secure geological formation through EOR’.

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy (FE) has selected two projects to receive approximately $7 million in federal funding for R&D into underground CO2 sequestration. Beneficiaries of funds from DE-FOA-0001829, aka ‘developing technologies for advancement of associated geologic storage in basinal geo-laboratories’ are U Illinois (stacked greenfield and brownfield ROZ fairways) and U North Dakota (Williston Basin CO2 field lab).

WellDog, Virginia Tech and Carbon GeoCycle have announced verification of carbon dioxide sequestered in underground rock formation. WellDog’s downhole geochemical Reservoir Raman System showed that CO2 injected over the last two years successfully flowed into all of the targeted coal seams. The project, located in Buchanan County, Virginia, involves injecting over 13,000 tons of CO2 into unmineable coal seams at depths of 900 to 2,000 feet with the goal of ‘storing carbon dioxide while simultaneously enhancing natural gas recovery’. More from Virginia Tech.

Fluor Corp. has signed an agreement for the use of the test facility at Gassnova’s technology center at Mongstad, Norway. The companies are to trial a new chemical solvent to separate carbon dioxide from industrial flue gases.


ExxonMobil has joined the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, a global initiative to provide practical solutions to climate change mitigation. The 13 member-strong OGCI targets carbon capture and storage, methane reductions and energy efficiencies. ExxonMobil is to expand its R&D into long-term solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. These include a 15% reduction in methane emissions by 2020 and 25% reduction of flaring. OGCI members are BP, Chevron, CNPC, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum, Pemex, Petrobras, Repsol, Royal Dutch Shell, Saudi Aramco and Total.

According to the International Energy Agency, the world is currently not on track to meet the main energy-related goals of the 2015 COP21 sustainable development scenario (SDS). The IEA has therefore tweaked the model to propose a new SDS involving a ‘major transformation’ of the global energy system, that delivers on the three main energy-related goals. The IEA’s scenario includes some implausibly ambitious projections for electricity access in the third world.

Negawatts and other greenish stuff

ISO has updated its energy management standard. ISO 50001:2018 features updated terms and definitions and clarification of energy performance concepts.

A NETL-led team has released Gogi, the global oil and gas infrastructure database. Gogi sets out to mitigate natural gas infrastructure failures with an inventory of oil and natural gas infrastructure information. Gogi identifies over 4.8 million features (wells, pipelines and ports) across 194 countries with data on the age, status, and owner/operator. Gogi is available from the NETL Energy Data eXchange (EDX), along with other resources.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Innovation Council has awarded funding to Integrated Informatics for the development of a personnel and asset tracking data management system for marine emergency response. The system will target marine oil spill response with real-time tracking and GIS technology.

Among the ten companies selected for Equinor’s Techstars Energy Accelerator program is Opus 12, a spin-off from Stanford University. Opus 12 ‘combines CO₂ and water to produce ‘higher-energy carbon-based products.’ Thermodynamics means that the process is ‘energetically uphill’, so electricity is required to ‘drive the reaction’. It’s not clear what problem Opus 12 is trying to solve as the output from the process is … another hydrocarbon. Along with Equinor, Techstars is backed by Kongsberg and McKinsey.


The Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, commenting on the EPA’s proposed changes to the regulation of methane leaks seeks to ‘repair’ over-reaching federal regulation on methane leaks in the oil patch. TAEP president John Tintera observed ‘methane is natural gas, virtually the same gas that we cook and heat our homes with every day. It is a very common gas emitted by wetlands and livestock. It is a by-product of life itself.’ While oil field methane leaks ‘should be detected and fixed’, heavy-handed federal regulations are considered ‘punitive, costly and unfair to the small independent producer’. At issue is the inclusion of stripper wells with marginal gas production under the new regulatory régime.

In an address earlier this year, reported in the Texas Tribune, Texas Railroad Commissioner Wayne Christian opined that ‘the science on climate change is not settled’. Christian railed against folks who see oil and gas as an antiquated energy source that will soon be replaced with so-called ‘green’ alternatives. ‘Fossil fuels are going to remain our primary source of energy for the foreseeable future. In my opinion, that is not a bad thing.’

Whatever your opinion on these issues, recent events in France have shown how hard even a modest move towards a carbon tax (along with an equally modest reduction in a speed limit on country roads) can be to get past the masses. A few centimes of a Euro/liter increase in the gasoline and diesel tax and a reduction from 90 to 80kph brought thousands of ‘gilets jaunes’ into the streets to complain that a) gas was too expensive and b) they were being denied the right to use more gas by driving faster.

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