Reducing carbon emissions offshore using permanently installed monitoring technology

Reducing carbon emissions offshore using permanently installed monitoring technology

Kim Ironside, Head of Global Partnerships and Marketing

The North Sea Transition Authority (NSTA) reported carbon emission reduction in North Sea oil and gas production in its latest Emissions Monitoring Report, however,  ‘bold measures’ are still needed to achieve the 2030 target.

The UK was one of the first countries to pledge net-zero carbon emissions by 2050…and while we’re already missing key milestones globally, North Sea oil and gas production has projected carbon emission reduction of 10 % by 2025 and 25 % by 2027. However, to achieve the 2030 goal of halving carbon emissions in the North Sea, far more aggressive measures must be taken.

While the UK government has pledged that high-skilled oil and gas workers and the supply chain will not be left behind in the transition to a low carbon future, it is reported that progress made has been down to the industry investing in more energy-efficient equipment and technologies, fewer mobilisations due to COVID-19, and decommissioning of several older platforms.

Reducing unplanned shutdowns

Flaring and venting in oil and gas operations is one of the biggest environmental concerns and sources of harmful gases. Between 2015-19, oil and gas companies operating in the North Sea released 20 million tonnes of CO2 through venting and flaring.  On larger, older platforms higher flaring intensity occurs which is especially damaging to the environment– this can be minimised by reducing unplanned shutdowns.

Operators cannot make informed maintenance decisions with poor data. For example, an offshore asset will typically have thousands of locations where the wall thickness is measured to assess for internal corrosion or erosion. Typically, ultrasonic measurements are taken manually by inspectors – these measurements are subject to human error (equipment calibration, finding the same location each time, data entry etc). Large error bars (can be as much as 20%) are typically used on the data and it is not uncommon for the wall thickness measurement to be seen to be increasing.

Permanently installed ultrasonic sensors provide highly accurate data from the same locations each time. The human error is eliminated, and the error bars are significantly smaller. As a result, the data can be accurately trended and therefore used to help predict when a problem will arise. Predictive maintenance is undeniably more cost effective than reactive or preventative maintenance and ensures performance and reliability is maintained – whilst also reducing unplanned shutdowns and subsequently carbon emissions.

Reducing helicopter travel

Optimising offshore campaigns serves as a prime example of measures that can be implemented right now to make more significant net zero progress.  Yet inspection campaigns are still very labour intensive. North Sea operators report that campaigns are often repeated 2, maybe 3 times due to data inaccuracies.  This not only increases the risk of fugitive emissions but also incurs multiple mobilisations.  Helicopters produce a disproportionate amount of CO2 ( 1/4 tonne CO2/ hour). With at least 400,000 offshore helicopters mobilised per year from Aberdeen Airport alone, a move to reduce trips could be an easy win for the offshore sector.

Permanent monitoring technology offers better quality data and reduces the need for repeat campaigns. In addition, it also reduces the need for skilled personnel to travel to an asset to collect the data which can support a reduction in carbon emission due to helicopter travel.

Reducing demand for steel production

The steel industry is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions. In 2020, Mckinsey reported that, during a period of lower outputs globally, 1.86 bn metric tonnes of steel were manufactured, generating 2.6bn metric tonnes of CO2 emissions.

With major steel producers like ArcelorMittal and Tata Steel now committing to ambitious decarbonisation targets, this should be a top priority for other producers – not only to achieve an economically competitive position & support the industry’s net zero targets, but ultimately their license to operate could be at risk.

Emerging technologies are helping to reduce emissions both at point of production and by extending the life of steel: If an operators maintenance strategy is to do just enough to keep a valuable piece of equipment up and running, it will deteriorate at a much faster rate. Permanent monitoring technology is being deployed to accurately monitor the condition of pipework, enabling predictive maintenance and also extending the useful life of the steel infrastructure. This ultimately reduces the demand for production and the associated emissions.

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