Innovation, energy efficiency and clean power are why B.C. and Canada lead the world in sustainably produced natural gas.
Natural gas producers in British Columbia are advancing the development of practices and technologies that will better monitor and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at their operations. Large scale initiatives, like electrification, are delivering significant reductions now, while inventive undertakings are laying the foundation for sustained reductions. These initiatives and investments are undertaken by companies on the own environmental and economic merits, but government can be a strong partner with industry. Policies such as the GHG offset protocol, and the award-winning Clean Infrastructure Royalty Credit Program can make a critical difference in the economic viability of select projects.
Here are five stories demonstrating some of the initiatives industry has undertaken to reduce GHG emissions at their operations in northeastern B.C., and maintain Canada's leadership as a producer of clean natural gas:
Industry in Action
Designing a low emissions natural gas plant in B.C.: Shell
Hydroelectricity and next-generation well design are reducing greenhouse gas emissions at Shell's B.C. natural gas operations.
Constructed in 2015, Shell Canada designed its B.C. Saturn Natural Gas Processing Plant to run on hydroelectricity instead of the standard practice of using natural gas to operate the plant. As a result, direct emissions from the plant are about 90 per cent lower then would have been emitted if the plant operated on natural gas, representing 150,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Also in B.C., Shell Canada successfully brought the first ‘Generation 4’ multi-well pad on stream in January 2018 at Groundbirch. This advanced well pad design utilizes zero-bleed electric valve actuators (the mechanism that opens and closes a valve) to eliminate the methane emissions that typically come from natural gas driven actuators. This new pad design reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 90 per cent, the equivalent of taking more than 40 cars off the road for every well using this new technology. Generation 4 will be Shell Canada’s standard moving forward.
Photo (above): Shell employee works with a zero-bleed electric valve actuator, a device that eliminates methane emissions associated with natural gas actuators used at well sites. Courtesy Shell.
Industry in Action
Using solar and more efficient compressor engines: Canadian Natural
Canadian Natural reduces emissions at its B.C. natural gas plants using solar, hydro and REMVue fuel management systems.
The Septimus and Noel Natural Gas Processing Plants owned by Canadian Natural Resources Limited (Canadian Natural) reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane and nitrogen oxides (NOx) by using hydroelectricity instead of natural gas to drive electric compressor motors. Since it started operation in 2011, the Septimus plant has avoided emitting 355,226 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The Noel plant has avoided emitting 59,949 tonnes of CO2e since Canadian Natural gained ownership of the plant in 2014. Canadian Natural also uses solar power at many remote well sites.
In addition, several of Canadian Natural’s natural gas plants in B.C. have
attached to their compressor engines. These units include a fuel management system that tightly controls the mixture of air and fuel gas going into the engine (like vehicle fuel injection), lowering the emissions created from engine operation. Adding REMVue technology has increased engine efficiency by 15 per cent on average. B.C.’s provincial offset standards and carbon pricing are helping drive this innovative offset project.
Photo (above) : Aerial shot of Canadian Natural's Septimus Natural Gas Processing Plant which uses hydroelectricity to drive electric compressor motors. Courtesy Canadian Natural.
Industry in Action
Building a low emissions gas plant in Dawson Creek: ARC Resources
ARC Resources lowers greenhouse gas emissions at its Dawson Creek natural gas facility using a variety of technologies.
In 2010, ARC Resources committed to building their Dawson Creek natural gas processing facility Phase 1 and 2 in a manner that would produce fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than was standard for such facilities at the time. ARC accomplished that goal by using a variety of technologies:
Electric-driven compressors were installed instead of using natural gas to compress inlet/sales gas, propane and acid gas at the plant. The plant was also built with an instrument-air system instead of instrument-gas, eliminating the need for venting.
Both phases of the facility were designed to use electricity, but when Phase 1 came online in May 2010, electricity was generated by on-site natural gas turbines. In 2011, with the launch of Phase 2, the entire facility was linked to the B.C. Hydro grid and the on-site generators, powered by natural gas, were deactivated. The facility now runs on hydroelectricity. As a result of these innovations, since 2010 the plant has reduced its emissions by 539,743 tonnes of CO2e, based on an annual average reduction of 67,468 tonnes of CO2e.
ARC continues its work to reduce GHG emissions:
Phase 3 of the Dawson Creek facility came on line in 2017. Emission-reducing design elements include a waste heat recovery unit that is estimated to save 1.3 million cubic feet (MMcf) per day of natural gas and avoids approximately 30,000 tonnes of CO2e emissions per year.
In 2018 ARC electrified their Parkland and Sunrise facilities, reducing GHG emissions by approximately 85 per cent or more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2e.
Other pump and instrumentation conversions have reduced emissions by more than 1,000 tonnes of CO2e annually.
Photo (above): ARC Resources Dawson Creek Phase 3 natural gas processing facility includes this energy-saving waste-heat recovery unit. Courtesy ARC Resources.
Industry in Action
Using drones to track GHGs: Canbriam, Progress and ARC Resources
Canbriam Energy, Progress Energy and ARC Resources collaborate with Geoscience BC on innovative greenhouse gas mapping tool.
Developing and using new technologies to better understand greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions helps Canada maintain its standing as a world leader in sustainable resource development. Canbriam Energy, Progress Energy and ARC Resources are collaborating with
Geoscience BC on a GHGMap project that uses drone-mounted sensors to improve the speed, accuracy, safety and cost of measuring GHG emissions. The project, using technology developed by NASA, will be used to remotely map emissions of gases such as methane, ethane and carbon dioxide. This work will help companies implement superior and cost-effective programs to better monitor and further reduce upstream GHG emissions.
Photo (above): Drone technology developed by Geoscience BC will be used to create a map of GHG emissions in northeastern B.C. Courtesy Canbriam.
Industry in Action
Energy-efficient design, retrofits and hydro power: Encana
Encana’s three largest gas processing facilities in B.C. have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 860,000 tonnes per year.
Encana has electrified the three largest gas processing facilities in B.C. through the use of hydroelectricity. This shift away from electricity generated by natural gas reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 860,000 tonnes per year. When planning its Saturn Natural Gas Plant, Encana worked with B.C. Hydro to identify design improvements to make both the compressor site and the gas gathering system much more energy-efficient than a standard design. When approved in 2016, the plant was designed to operate using hydroelectricity instead of natural gas, and included a number of design features to improve energy efficiency.
Encana’s extensive technology retrofit program is currently underway at sites in northeast B.C. This is a scalable operation where Encana plans to swap out many gas pneumatic controllers and pumps across hundreds of well sites and implement instrument-air control systems at older facilities to reduce methane emissions.