Jennifer Pallanich, senior technology editor, Hart Energy: As the industry works to beat the emissions problem, one super major is making teammates of its competitors. Find out what Chevron is up to in this Hart Energy LIVE exclusive interview.
Vanessa Ryan, methane reduction manager of strategy and sustainability, Chevron: So our goal is really simple. It's to keep methane in the pipe. So we start with designing and operating our facilities with a methane minimization mindset. And then we use these detection technologies to really validate that we are operating as designed and to help inform repairs. But the initial starting point is that facility design and operation and really thinking all the way through a process flow diagram, where are the potential emission points and how do we manage them?
For me, something that is very exciting about the methane space, in addition to the pace of the technology development, [is] the way our industry has approached technology development and deployment. I have struggled to think of another topic where our industry has really come together to jointly solve a challenge where we're all sharing with each other. So we're part of multiple collaborations that sort of fall into a couple of different buckets—one on the research and development side and another on the deployment side.
On the research side, we're really proud to support something called the Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center that's just up the road in Fort Collins here where there is a fake oil field or Hollywood oil field set up.
VR: It is so cool, with little emissions points built all around, and you can test technologies in a quasi-controlled environment, but it’s like a real oil field. So it's a great opportunity for both vendors in the space to come and try and learn really quickly and for operators like Chevron to have an opportunity to see how technologies perform in similar settings.
We also have number of deployment partnerships, which are very exciting as well, where we learn from other companies. So instead of all of us trying to innovate independently, we learn from each other and build upon each other's learnings.
There's a collaboration called the Environmental Partnership that has over 100 U.S. operators representing over 70% of U.S. oil and gas production. And we meet on a fairly regular basis to share best practices at a very detailed level, including workshops in basin. So, it's not just emissions people talking to emissions people, but operators talking to operators about ways to share best practices.
We're really lucky to partner with some leading vendors in this space, and when I say partner, I truly mean partner, because the technology that we have available today, most of it was bench scale less than five years ago. So these vendors that we have a chance to work with, we're really helping them figure out how to deploy in big companies, as they're helping us figure out where our methane emissions are.
In the U.S. onshore, we've got a partnership with a company called Bridger Photonics out of Bozeman, Montana, and they have an aerial lidar technology that we use in almost all of our U.S. onshore facilities now. We also have a partnership with a company called GHGSat, and they have nine satellites orbiting the world all the time, and they cover 20 of our global assets. And these assets are generally very large, have distinct fence lines, and can be very challenging to bring technology into countries, especially technologies that are primarily U.S. based. So it gives us a much larger global footprint. So we have traditional leak detection and repair programs using sniffers and optical gas imaging cameras deployed throughout the enterprise. And we are also piloting continuous emissions monitoring sensors. These are projects where you install fixed sensors around a facility in a more traditional deployment. We're also partnering with the University of Texas and other operators in something called Project Astra, where these continuous emissions monitoring sensors are deployed in a less traditional manner, that could potentially have an opportunity for multi-operator deployments in the future. So instead of each operator in an area censoring up the fence lines of their facilities, you would have a distributed network of sensors across multiple operators that all talk to each other.
JP: So can you give me an example of something Chevron has done to reduce its emissions?
VR: Absolutely. So in the Permian, Chevron has built a tool called the real-time autonomous optimizer. We love acronyms, so we call it the RAO. Okay. And the RAO tool uses the constant monitoring that we do of operational parameters and builds the layer on that to manage upset conditions. So we actually predict and prevent emissions in upset conditions by looking at metrics. When we see certain metrics that look like we could go out of range for a piece of equipment, we automatically throttle in production going to that facility. So then operators can really focus on looking at the underlying cause of whatever the upset situation is, instead of trying to just manage the emissions situation. An early pilot of this project has shown an 80% reduction in volumes from flaring and venting due to upset emissions.
JP: Oh, that's fantastic.
VR: Very excited about that tool.
JP: So that's a pilot in the Permian right now? [Are there] plans for further expansion of that?
VR: We've already started to roll out an expansion to a larger portion of the Permian and we continue to learn and innovate as we do so.
JP: That's your Hart Energy LIVE exclusive. Learn more at hartenergy.com.
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