Moderating Methane: Sustainability Through Emissions Reduction
Increasing pipeline productivity while fulfilling environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) goals, Houston-based WeldFit brings 50 years of experience to safe and efficient hot tapping, plugging, pigging and comprehensive methane reduction.
Creating a better world requires environmental care and green efficiency in all businesses, especially when confronting methane emissions. Unfortunately, it’s an ever-present by-product of energy-business operations, with thousands of tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) methane released into the atmosphere every day.
The substance in question – which has 80 times the warming capacity of CO2 in the first two decades after entering the atmosphere – must be removed from a pressurized system before a pig launcher is opened at a natural gas processing facility, or before an isolated section of pipeline is removed and replaced.
This usually means flaring or venting of the gas which releases methane and other greenhouse gases (GHG) directly into the atmosphere.
The fix is ready
WeldFit has a fix with ReCAP, a gas recovery system that ensures a constant transfer rate, allowing for quick and easy gas recapture and making ESG targets attainable. Environmental audits reveal that the ReCAP Emissions Recovery System reduces methane emissions by up to 99.99 percent when compared to venting or flaring.
“Sustainability to us in the gas industry is moving product from wellhead to consumer,” says Adam Murray, Vice President, WeldFit Performance Products.
Traditionally, when companies must take down a line or a piece of equipment, they lose a bit of product, that being natural gas. “By using the company’s ReCAP emissions reduction system, it allows them to capture even the remaining percentage of gas, recompressing that and keeping it in the system.”
ReCAP employs technology that does one simple but critical task in support of ESG-driven methane emission reduction goals: During routine pipeline operations, it reduces the need for voluntary natural gas flaring or venting commonly associated with blowdowns.
“ReCAP, at its core fundamental design and function, allows our customers to reach their sustainability goals,” says Eric Heinle, President, Pigging and Performance Products. “It safely and efficiently prevents voluntary venting of emissions into the atmosphere.”
For a lot of WeldFit customers, those emissions reductions and goals are part of their long-term and near-term/current strategy, and ReCAP allows them to achieve those.
Focus on the pipeline
“WeldFit, in general, is focused on the pipeline, so our mission statement is we want to make pipelines more productive,” says Heinle. “We also pride ourselves on being reliable and ready to serve as well as being very innovative.”
By recapturing gas from pipeline sections that have been isolated for depressurization, and quickly transferring it to a nearby pressurized system, pipeline operators can safely and easily minimize methane emissions.
Additionally, thanks to ReCAP’s Straight-Line Performance – a patent-pending technology from WeldFit that generates a near constant and predictable depressurization rate from start to finish – the crucial work that follows can be started on time.
“Every emission occurrence we can eliminate has a meaningful impact because methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere,” says Murray. “This also enhances the safety and well-being of the people that live nearby and of our operators. It’s important for us to be environmental stewards, but it also helps with moving forward our license to operate.”
To date, the company has saved more than 18,000 metric tons of CO2e, or more than 42 million standard cubic feet of natural gas, an amount that will grow exponentially in the next few months, making a significant impact.
“Over the past 30 years, oil demand has gone up 66 percent, and natural gas production is up 96 percent. In that same time methane intensity dropped almost 20 percent,” says Murray. “A drop like that during stagnant production would be great, but to do it with such gains has been just incredible. As bad as the industry gets picked apart, what we’ve done is remarkable.”
Sustainability is a vital part of the company’s mandate, one built into its core and one it continues to impress on its clients.
“We’re about the six Cs, and common sense and customer-focused are two of them. Our customers are certainly wanting to move into the more environmentally friendly space,” says Murray. “With a lot of our products we do have some inherent environmental advantages built in to that and ReCAP only enhances all of those.”
A changing world
That environmental awareness is being seen across the industry as changes are implemented daily.
“There are new rules to curb methane emissions in particular,” says Murray. “At the 2021 Climate Summit in Glasgow, 100 countries took the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions. That’s pretty significant.”
In fact, the U.S. led that initiative aimed at reducing methane emissions by 30 percent in nine years, mostly through tougher legislation governing methane leaks from oil and gas operations. Many of the techniques are aimed at averting large-scale leaks.
“The Build Back Better Bill, whether it passes or not, has carbon fees and methane-emission fees built into it that could severely impact the economics of methane emissions,” Murray adds. “It’s just a matter of following the technology that we already have. I think our industry has a mandate to make a meaningful impact on the environment.”
Another big challenge WeldFit faces is creating awareness and helping to bring its customers’ operations in compliance with regulatory requirements in the industry as the market evolves at a rapid pace.
“I’m sure more and more of those regulations are going to come out and as companies are now being mandated by local and state jurisdictions, obviously it would be great to have federal regulations emerge. But, state by state, they’re starting to release these regulations which will allow ReCAP to do that,” says Heinle.
WeldFit spent an incredible amount of time on awareness early on when commercializing ReCAP, which launched in September 2021, says Murray. Much was given to letting people know about ReCAP’s abilities and how it can be used to keep the gas in the pipeline.
“We spend a lot of time trying to help our customers navigate these new regulations and understand how this can apply to their current operations with minimal disruption,” adds Heinle.
Hard value, easy choice
“In some regards, this is viewed not only as perception but, in reality, as a cost or time matter. We’re trying to make sure they understand not only the social responsibility value of recovering the gas but the actual hard value of not venting or flaring that gas, of keeping it in the pipeline, and also doing it in a way that doesn’t slow down their operations and still allows them to be very efficient,” says Heinle.
ReCAP’s innovations and abilities have recently been recognized: It won the Innovation Award at the PPIM (Pipeline Pigging and Integrity Management) conference this year. The fight to create awareness isn’t done yet, however.
“Because every state has different rules and regulations, keeping up with those ever-changing targets is tough,” Murray says, and WeldFit is taking its task seriously.
Chief Strategy Officer Todd Sale recently became a certified ESG expert and sustainability officer. “He graduated from the Energy Workforce and Technology Council ESG certification program,” says Murray. “So, we’re not only committed to helping the environment where we can, we’re investing in it with our products and with our people. We mustn’t be just saying this stuff; we’re doing it and we’re acting on it.”
The key is the people, Murray adds. “We care. Everyone in the industry is outdoorsy and active. It’s a culture we go by and that’s what sets us apart. It’s all about the right people in the right place.”
And the people are up for the challenge of facing the industry and the ESG movement’s rapid change which makes it so demanding to keep up and stay ahead.
“The good news is WeldFit is privately owned and very people-focused,” says Murray. “They allowed Todd to get his ESG certification, and they allow my engineering group to help create products that make an immediate impact, rather than these big glacial companies that move very slowly.”
Much more to be done
The result is a big impact in a short time, he says, but there’s still a lot more to be done. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (USEIA) still vents or flares almost 1.5 billion cubic feet per day.
There’s good news, however: Every day companies are seeing the importance, and the benefits, of reducing methane – the same companies that WeldFit talked to maybe two months ago, and are talking to again today, says Heinle.
“They’re evolving every day and becoming more inquisitive and more receptive to the technology, whether it’s because they’re being told to or just because they’re adopting it. We’re seeing more and more acceptance across the board, which is good.”
WeldFit will continue to partner with its clients to understand their needs and challenges, developing solutions to help them achieve environmental goals with minimal disruption to operations while continuing to be profitable and effective.
“Creating that awareness is key, making sure folks understand that the solution and the technology are there and that the process is something that should be recorded and celebrated positively, versus it being just another thing they have to do,” says Heinle.
The ReCAP technology, Murray adds, is very innovative, safe, fast, efficient, and effective. People have been searching for a solution like this, and almost every day WeldFit comes upon a new application by which this technology can help the environment.
“I do think our solution is resonating,” says Heinle. “ReCAP specifically is resonating in the market because of those points. We partner with our clients, and our technology is differentiated in that it allows them to be more efficient while they’re doing all of these things. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”