The oil and gas industry is constantly faced with how to best find and repair natural gas leaks at potential escape points such as compressor stations, processing plants, hydraulically-fractured wells, and along transportation lines.
Now FLIR Systems has published a new paper which describes the substantial financial, operational and safety benefits that Jonah Energy (Sublette County, WY, USA) has achieved using FLIR GF320 Optical Gas Imaging Camera's (OGI) to inspect their facilities for gas leaks.
The industry standard for leak detection and repair has long been the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Method 21 protocol, which relies on toxic vapour analyzers (TVAs) to detect gas leaks. However the EPA is now planning to recommend optical gas imaging as an alternative to TVAs, calling it a "Best System of Emission Reduction." This new FLIR paper discusses the experiences of Jonah Energy, in terms of plant safety and the return on their investment in OGI cameras, training, and use.
In the paper, Jonah Energy states that the main advantage of using the FLIR GF320 OGI camera is its ability to scan large areas remotely. This has helped its inspectors to safely pinpoint the source of fugitive emissions and begin the repair process immediately, making OGI inspections at least nine times faster than Method 21 surveys. The speed of OGI scans makes it easier for oil and gas producers to survey equipment more often. The EPA has noted that more frequent inspections and repairs can reduce fugitive methane and VOC emissions significantly e.g. quarterly surveys can cut emissions by 80 percent, while semi-annual monitoring surveys and repairs can reduce emissions by 60%.
Since the implementation of Jonah Energy's Enhanced Direct Inspection and Maintenance Program in 2010 their engineers have conducted over 16,000 inspections and have repaired thousands of leaks identified by the FLIR cameras. As a consequence, Jonah Energy has reduced fugitive emissions by 75%. It has also reduced repair time from 705 hours to 106, and cut labour costs from $348,000 to $20,500. Based upon a market value of natural gas of $4 per million Btu, Jonah Energy estimate the gas savings from the repair of leaks identified exceeded the labour and material costs of repairing the identified leaks. Additionally, the company estimates that it has eliminated the emission of hundreds of tons of volatile organic compounds to the atmosphere.