This year’s Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition (ATCE) in Calgary brought together more than 6,000 industry leaders from companies from around the world to share ideas and technologies. But without question, the overriding theme was how the oil and gas industry will meet the demands of current and future generations on environmental sustainability.
Speaking during the opening keynote on responsible energy development, Jackie Forrest, senior director of research at ARC Energy Research Institute, said the oil and gas industry is “facing the challenge of a generation.”
Indeed the challenge is a substantial one. More than 1 billion people globally are without reliable supplies of energy. Leigh-Ann Russell, head of upstream procurement and supply chain management for BP, noted at ATCE that energy demand will grow by one-third by 2030.
“It’s a dual energy challenge,” Russell said. “How do we provide the oil and gas the world needs more cleanly and more efficiently, and at the same time break down emissions?”
There is a third component to that challenge: doing those things economically and in a way that makes a company a profit and pleases shareholders. Paying back investors while maintaining a social license to operate is a tricky balancing act.
However, Jeanne-Mey Sun, executive of energy transition and clean energy solutions at Baker Hughes, believes it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. In January Baker Hughes announced its effort toward achieving net-zero carbon emissions. According to the company, that commitment includes “a 50% reduction in CO2-equivalent emissions by 2030 (compared to a 2012 baseline) and net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050.”
In a conversation with E&P at ATCE, Sun described a number of technologies designed to reduce carbon emissions that Baker Hughes has deployed.
Lumen is a methane monitoring and inspection system that works as a stationary tool or a drone that helps identify and quantify methane leaks and concentrations in the air. The company’s modular gas processing system treats and fractionates flared natural gas that otherwise would be flared into the atmosphere and uses the gas in other products. Sun said that in a project in Iraq, the system has helped avoid flaring of 200 MMcf/d, which translates to 5.7 MMtons/year.
Baker Hughes’ Becker Zero-Bleed Valve System captures gas escaping when valves actuate and re-pipes the gas back into the system. Sun said the system can capture 25 tons of CO2 equivalent per year.
“We’ve taken a look at the emissions that occur all through the value chain,” she said. “We’ve quantified that, and we have an understanding of the types of emissions and the types of activities that drive those emissions. And all of our solutions are designed to address those drivers.”
In addition to innovative technologies capturing carbon emissions before they are released into the atmosphere, incentives are emerging for carbon capture, utilization and storage. Any energy transition will be a methodical one, and oil and gas will play a role in the energy mix of the future. But if the oil and gas industry is to meet the challenge of a generation, and not fail future generations, it will take the industry coming together as a whole. Discussions such as those had at ATCE are an important step in the process, but actually deploying successful technologies that reduce emissions will prove to be the ultimate test.
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