Q&A: Are Net Zero Upstream Oil & Gas Operations Achievable? 

Minimizing well-site emissions globally requires a combination of technological advancements, strategic planning, and industry collaboration. James Hall, Canrig Senior Director for Energy Transition, and Luke Trueheart, Canrig Project Line Manager for Energy Transition, will examine how oil and gas companies are approaching decarbonization and highlight some of the newest technologies on the market.

Q1: How has the push towards energy transition shaped the oil and gas industry? What trends are we seeing?

James Hall (JH): The energy transition is transforming the oil and gas industry, bringing the next step change in sustainability, reduced emissions, and a broader focus on clean energy solutions.

Through the shale revolution, the focus on operational efficiency has also helped drive down emissions per foot drilled. Shifting from mechanical rigs to alternating current (AC) rigs, introducing digital and automated solutions, well designs and crew performance have all contributed to these historical improvements in the emissions intensity of drilling.

What’s especially exciting now is that the brilliant minds already working in the industry are taking decarbonization efforts to the next level. By implementing advanced technologies that enhance a rig’s energy efficiency or enable alternative, cleaner power sources for drilling, we reduce our carbon footprint, enhance performance, lower fuel consumption, and improve overall efficiency.

Most predictions indicate the demand for fossil fuels is not going away. So we have to do what we can to make hydrocarbon production responsible. If we can apply the same level of innovation and ingenuity that drove down the marginal cost of shale production to lowering emissions, the industry should be more than capable of achieving its sustainability goals.

Q2: What technologies has Canrig commercialized to lower the carbon intensity of drilling?

JH: Canrig has been at the forefront of innovation, consistently commercializing and deploying products that decarbonize operations. Our portfolio includes fuel enhancers, AI-based power and engine management systems, and rig electrification solutions.

Fuel Enhancers: Canrig partnered with Purify Fuels Inc. to offer a unique product to the drilling market. By enhancing the combustion process of diesel engines, the nanO2® fuel enhancer works as a catalyst to reduce fuel costs and emissions. Multiple field tests across three continents show up to an 8% reduction in fuel consumption and CO2e. Additionally, we are also working on an exciting hydrogen technology which we expect to publicize soon.

Power and Engine Management: Effective power generation and engine management is crucial for reducing GHG emissions. Manually controlling generators can lead to excessive power generation and increased emissions from the rig. The Canrig SmartPOWER™ system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze real-time electronic drilling recorder (EDR) data to proactively advise and control the number of generators online while optimizing the rig performance. Automating engine management enables rigs to run engines at their most efficient levels.

Rig Electrification: Powering drilling rigs with the electric grid significantly lowers drilling emissions and costs, making it an environmental and economic win for customers. The Canrig PowerTAP™ highline transformer module can connect any alternating current (AC) or silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR) rig to the grid. Should a power interruption occur, diesel generators will kick on, ensuring reliability. Especially when connected to a sustainable grid network, for example, one run on renewables, it is theoretically possible to operate the rig with zero scope one emissions and significant reductions in scope two and three.

Q3: Fuel additives are not a new concept, so what is different about the nanO2® Fuel Enhancer?

Luke Trueheart (LT): The nanO2® fuel enhancer features a proprietary combustion catalyst component that improves and extends combustion by donating additional oxygen molecules to the combustion throughout the cycle. Diesel fuel burns more completely, increasing efficiency and reducing emissions.

A recent emissions reporting test using third-party monitoring equipment on a Nabors rig using the nanO2® fuel enhancer indicated dosing with the nanO2® technology decreased emissions by an average of 6.7% across the entire load range of a 3512C diesel generator while assuming an equal reduction in fuel consumption given the proportionate relationship between CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. The nanO2® fuel enhancer is an easily implemented, capital-light solution for completions, drilling and offshore operations.

Q4: Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a popular buzzword. How can it be used to lower drilling emissions?

LT: We can use AI to analyze live drilling data to predict power requirements for upcoming drilling activities and identify the optimal number of engines for the required demand. Optimizing engine use is an effective way to decarbonize the rigsite. The Canrig SmartPOWER™ system observes how the rig performed historically and how it performs in real-time, enabling the system to infer what lies 10 minutes ahead. SmartPOWER™ technology is agnostic by design and integrates with any third-party control system for installation on any AC-powered rig.

Analyzing real-time drilling data to predict optimal power requirements during two completed well cycles on a rig in South Texas, SmartPOWER™  technology advised the driller on the ideal number of generators required to meet the predicted demand. Over 23 operating days, the SmartPOWER™ system reduced fuel consumption by 6.1%, saving 3,116 gallons of diesel. The SmartPOWER™ system also reduced the average engines online throughout the test period from 3.41 to 2.69—a 21% reduction in operational engine hours.

Q5: Replacing diesel engines with grid power to run drilling operations seems greatly advantageous. What are the benefits?

LT: Using the grid to power drilling operations significantly reduces onsite and overall emissions. We collected field data from over 20 PowerTAP™ modules deployed across the Lower 48 on Nabors and non-Nabors rigs demonstrating an average daily savings of 20 metric tons of CO2e per rig. Nabors recently implemented the Canrig PowerTAP™ highline power transformer module on four Hess rigs operating in the Bakken. Over the next five years, Hess expects this fully electric Bakken drilling fleet will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its Bakken drilling operations by approximately 50% and energy costs by approximately 70%.

Q6: What future projects are on the horizon for Canrig?

JH: Canrig currently has several products and technologies under development. One of those products is our Hydrogen Injection Catalyst. Once completed, this will add another solution to our Fuel Enhancers focus area. The Hydrogen Injection Catalyst is currently completing field trials and is expected to bring savings in line with what you see in the nanO2® system but with a very low operating expense due to no consumables other than water.

Another solution we are actively pursuing is energy storage. We are currently looking into multiple solutions within the energy storage space and working to build a product that works seamlessly with our SmartPOWER™ system to harness the savings from power management and energy storage solutions (ESS).

Lastly, data is a critical part of the energy transition space, and having the ability to record emissions data as well as fuel and power is critical. Through our existing nanO2® dosing and monitoring product, we can report what fuel is consumed versus what power is created. We are currently working to introduce real-time emissions monitoring that will provide a cost-effective solution for reporting emissions on top of our current fuel and power reports.

Canrig is a division of Nabors Industries.