Global Warming Essay Example

The earth is slowly dying as a result of global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions are slowly heating earth as a direct result of human activities. Everyone knows that carbon dioxide is one of the biggest greenhouse gas emitters on the planet right now, but in comparison to methane, carbon dioxide is negligible. It is reported that methane is 84 times more potent at trapping heat in our atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Methane also has a negative effect on our ozone layer that causes it to be depleted when reacted together. So ensuring our methane leakages are kept to a minimum is one of the biggest issues our planet is currently facing. One of the largest emitters of methane in the world is natural gas extraction.

Our group was tasked with trying to find a way to bend the curve on the issue of natural gas. I specifically dealt with the governance solution cluster of the report. My task was to try and and see how older technologies could be improved with newer technologies and how viable these newer technologies would be in the industry along with policies to both enforce and incline companies to use these. These newer technologies must be able to mitigate methane emissions, while not showing a substantial loss in profit. Furthermore, this newer more advanced tech had to show a significant bend in the curve against methane emissions otherwise they would not be considered. Finding a balance between enforcement of these new policies and inclination, which is key if we want companies to start using these newer more efficient technological devices.

To start, these new technological advances had to reduce methane emissions affecting all four aspects of natural gas emissions: production, gathering and processing, transporting, and distribution to give a real way to bend the curve. The easiest way is to start with eliminating unnecessary equipment and systems that exceed operational demands and as a result are inefficient. An example of this is in the production facilities that have field tanks designed for maximum production, which hardly occurs so as a result is inefficient. It is shown that a reduction in the number of field tanks reduces methane emissions with a minimum amount of natural gas loss. We can now use this to create a policy where new companies or extractors have to bring a plan of how much natural gas they plan to extract, the threshold they plan to reach, then we have a hired team of engineers verify theses thresholds and we come back with a plan of how many field tanks and other equipment is necessary for an efficient extraction with as minimum loss of methane as possible. This will not only reduce methane emissions and make natural gas more efficient but will also lead to more job creation in the government. There are more specific ways a company can also eliminate unnecessary equipment.

A more specific example of eliminating unnecessary conditions is to reduce natural gas venting with fewer compressor engine startups and improved engine ignition. Compressors engines are normally equipped with gas expansion starters, which has high pressure natural gas stored in a volume tank. The discharge header of the compressor is unloaded before the engine is started and vented to the atmosphere. Reducing these startups avoids blowdowns, which reduces the volume of gas vented to the atmosphere with each startup. The main issue with these compressors is that poorly maintained ignition systems increase the probability of failed engine starts and as a result can stall the compressor. Each of these failed engine starts leads to unnecessary methane emissions and reduces efficiency. Methane emissions from compressors are determined by size and other factors, so for larger compressors these methane emissions can be substantial. Having fewer compressor starts would cost companies almost no money since all they would have to do is train their workers just a bit more to deal with the fewer starts. An example of extractors that have already reduced their engine startups from 9.4 to 5 starts per year has reported a saving of 132 MCF per start for just one compressor, which leads to a total system wide methane emission reduction of 15,065 MCF per year by just eliminating the unnecessary shutdown of engines. If companies have an issue with reducing their engine startups, they could also install electronic ignitions and automated controls systems, which would also reduce their methane emissions. These would be more expensive, but would almost triple the reduction of the methane emissions in some cases. To be exact the price of installing and automated control system on just one compressor would be $15,000, but at a gas price of $3 the payback would only take about eight months. A corporation that chose to install the automated control systems on fifty-two compressors reduced their annual methane emissions by 800 MCF per compressor, leading to a total reduction of 41,600 MCF. Obviously we would like corporations to install automated control systems, but that may be asking too much of companies to spend money like that, so a fair assessment would be to just reduce the frequency of compressor engine starts. Another issue that could arise with these solutions is transparency. Corporations could simply lie about reducing their compressor engine starts, so jobs must be created by the government in order to verify that a reduction has occurred and if there was any lie told the corporation be held liable for it. In the future the government could offer ways to help in installing automated control systems by subsidizing the cost of them to make them more affordable. It is clear though that without any government intervention there is no way to see if corporations are making an effort to mitigate their methane emissions.

The compressor engine also has other areas of leakage that can be easily addressed. In addition to the vented emissions from the startups, there is also gas leakage from the volume tanks. Normally engine startups use natural gas, but by switching that to either compressed air or nitrogen methane and other gas emissions are also reduced. Conversion to nitrogen or air completely eliminates the venting of methane to the atmosphere and the leakage of methane through the gas shut-off valve. No real changes are necessary with this switch either other than a high pressure air or nitrogen fill connection. Replacing gas starters with air or nitrogen is completely economically efficient because the only capital cost would be installation of piping for the air or nitrogen and the operational costs to compress it. A rough estimate would be around $750 per compressor, which can easily be recouped in one to three months. The EPA/GRI Study, “Methane Emissions from The Natural Gas Industry” Volume 8, reported 1,341 Mcf per year leakage from compressor starter open-ended lines that did not use air or nitrogen in their compressor. A company that used compressed air in their compressor reported a reduction of about 500 MCF in methane emissions per year for multiple applications. Most of the previous ways mentioned to mitigate our methane emissions are all easy and affordable and as a result should be enforced by the government in some way shape or form. Ways of enforcement could be as simple as a tax and if companies continuously chose to pay the tax and ignore these improvements, a higher tax or even sanctions in some cases should be imposed. Reducing or replacing unnecessary equipment is possibly the easiest way to motivate companies to make a change, while the next few suggestions will be difficult in comparison, they will lead to a higher reduction in methane emissions.

A more expensive, but efficient way to reduce methane emissions is by installing automated air/fuel ratio controls. Natural gas fueled internal combustion engines can provide continuous duty operations over a set range of air to fuel ratios (AFR). A low AFR leads to a rich burn, which means you need more horsepower needed. A high AFR leads to a lean burn, which is more efficient because a lower horsepower is used. Low AFR leads to more fuel emissions, mostly methane, but also carbon monoxide emissions, and fewer nitrous oxide emissions. A high AFR produces lower methane but more nitrous oxide. After AFRs exceed the ratio of 18:1 nitrous oxide emissions start to decrease. Most conventional engines cannot monitor oxygen levels in the exhaust gas for AFRs in excess of 20:1. By installing automated AFR control systems to auto adjust and optimize operating parameters for their natural gas fired internal combustion engines companies can achieve significant fuel savings, and reduce associated emissions. Other benefits from optimizing engine operation with AFR control systems include fewer false starts, longer engine life, lower maintenance and fuel costs. Some companies have already started to install these automated air/fuel ratio controls and these companies have reported annual methane emission reductions of 913-12,175 million cubic feet (MCF) per unit after installing AFR control systems for compressors. The automated system not only helps mitigate methane emissions, but also helps in fuel gas savings. A company reported average fuel gas savings for fifty-one engines was 78 MCF per engine, which represented a 39% increase in fuel savings compared to the year before. The problem however, with these controls is that the estimated implementation costs $138,000 per unit. Although this seems like quite a large number at first, if these companies were to charge the lowest estimated gas price of $3.00, payback is said to take about only 1.6 years. This is with just the lowest gas price, the more a company charges the faster this payback will be. To sway companies towards installing these automated control systems we could offer them some type of rebate system for every unit installed. For every unit installed there could be a 10% rebate given and if all units are installed throughout the plant at one time this rebate can grow to 25% per unit. Although the company selling the control system product may not agree to these terms, they will see that when installing these units in bulk a price reduction will not affect their profits since they are selling such an immense amount of these automated controls. Giving rebates is another way the government can help solve this problem of methane emissions along with others.

Another simple way of improving natural gas extraction is by adding a test and repair pressure safety valve system. If a pressure surge in a compressor, pipeline, or pressure vessel exceeds the max operating pressure for the system, pressure safety valves will open and vent excess gas to the atmosphere. The complication with this is that over time, the valve seats wear out, which will cause gas leaks that will grow larger as the leak point erodes or is subject to corrosion. These gas leaks are major sources of methane emissions in natural gas extraction. In a study conducted, four plants were found to have only .4% of leaking equipment yet they still contributed 3.5 percent to the total emissions. Now imagine if that .4% was a higher number like 10%, the methane emissions would be catastrophic. With a regular screening system put in place that monitors pressure safety valves for leakage there can be huge reduction in methane emissions. To repair a pressure safety valve costs about $75-$250 per valve. Although this may seem like large amount since it is per valve, if a company charged an annual gas price of $3 the payback would only take eight months. If the company wanted to charge more, they could and reduce that payback time even more. When this screening system was put in place, a company found that from one hundred screened pressure safety valves about 25% were found to be leaking. When the 25 valves were repaired the total methane savings were 500 MCF. The government can create cap and trade type of policy using this screening system, where a company is allowed a finite amount of emissions from valve systems, and for every MCF over that number the company will be fined a certain amount. For every MCF below that number the company will be given a reduction in tax, up to 5%. For a companies tax purposes a reduction of 5% will be a large amount and as a result will sway them to add a test and repair pressure safety valve system. For government, the tax reduction could be evened out with the amount of fines companies will take for not having the system.

The government should do whatever is necessary to help our planet with its methane emission problem. Whether that be giving support in the form of capital, or imposing restrictions on large methane emitters. The solutions set forth in my argument regarding eliminating unnecessary equipment, upgrading technological standards, or implementing systems are all reasonable in some way shape or form. I have given examples of how the new technologies have been used before and have shown how they cause a reduction in methane, without having a long payback period. The goal I want to accomplish is to not make companies hate us for implementing these policies or reforms, but to make them realize we are trying to help corporations be around as long as possible. The only way to do that is by making sure we live in a sustainable environment, where there is balance between both environmental policy and industry.


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