Fugitive emission

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Fugitive emissions are leaks and other irregular releases of gases or vapors from a pressurized containment - such as appliances, storage tanks, pipelines, wells, or other pieces of equipment - mostly from industrial activities. In addition to the economic cost of lost commodities, fugitive emissions contribute to local air pollution and may cause further environmental harm. Common industrial gases include refrigerants and natural gas, while less common examples are perfluorocarbons, sulfur hexafluoride, and nitrogen trifluoride.

Most occurrences of fugitive emissions are small, of no immediate impact, and difficult to detect. Nevertheless due to rapidly expanding activity, even the most strictly regulated gases have accumulated outside of industrial workings to reach measurable levels globally.[1] Fugitive emissions include many poorly understood pathways by which the most potent and long-lived ozone depleting substances and greenhouse gases enter Earth's atmosphere.[2]

In particular, the build-up of a variety of man-made halogenated gases over the past several decades contributes more than 10% of the radiative forcing which drives global climate change as of year 2020.[3] Moreover, the ongoing banking of small to large quantities of these gases within consumer appliances, industrial systems, and abandoned equipment throughout the world has all but guaranteed their future emissions for many years to come.[4] Fugitive emissions of CFCs and HCFCs from legacy equipment and process uses have continued to hinder recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer in the years since most production was banned in accordance with the international Montreal Protocol.[5]

Similar legacy issues continue to be created at ever-increasing scale with the mining of fossil hydrocarbons, including gas venting and fugitive gas emissions from coal mines, oil wells, and gas wells.[6] Economically depleted mines and wells may be abandoned or poorly sealed, while properly decommissioned facilities may experience emission increases following equipment failures or earth disturbances. Satellite monitoring systems are beginning to be developed and deployed to aid identification of the largest emitters, sometimes known as super-emitters.[7][8]

Emissions inventory[edit]

A detailed inventory of greenhouse gas emissions from upstream oil and gas activities in Canada for the year 2000 estimated that fugitive equipment leaks had a global warming potential equivalent to the release of 17 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 12 percent of all greenhouse gases emitted by the sector,[9] while another report put fugitive emissions at 5.2% of world greenhouse emissions in 2013.[10] Venting of natural gas, flaring, accidental releases and storage losses accounted for an additional 38 percent.

Fugitive emissions present other risks and hazards. Emissions of volatile organic compounds such as benzene from oil refineries and chemical plants pose a long term health risk to workers and local communities. In situations where large amounts of flammable liquids and gases are contained under pressure, leaks also increase the risk of fire and explosion.

Pressurized equipment[edit]

Leaks from pressurized process equipment generally occur through valves, pipe connections, mechanical seals, or related equipment. Fugitive emissions also occur at evaporative sources such as waste water treatment ponds and storage tanks. Because of the huge number of potential leak sources at large industrial facilities and the difficulties in detecting and repairing some leaks, fugitive emissions can be a significant proportion of total emissions. Though the quantities of leaked gases may be small, gases that have serious health or environmental impacts can cause a significant problem.

Fenceline monitoring[edit]

Fenceline monitoring techniques involve the use of samplers and detectors positioned at the fenceline of a facility. Several types of devices are used to provide data on a facility's fugitive emissions, including passive samplers with sorbent tubes, and "SPod" sensors that provide real-time data.[11]

Detection and repair[edit]

To minimize and control leaks at process facilities operators carry out regular leak detection and repair activities. Routine inspections of process equipment with gas detectors can be used to identify leaks and estimate the leak rate in order to decide on appropriate corrective action. Proper routine maintenance of equipment reduces the likelihood of leaks.

Because of the technical difficulties and costs of detecting and quantifying actual fugitive emissions at a site or facility, and the variability and intermittent nature of emission flow rates, bottom-up estimates based on standard emission factors are generally used for annual reporting purposes.

New technologies[edit]

New technologies are under development that could revolutionize the detection and monitoring of fugitive emissions. One technology, known as differential absorption lidar (DIAL), can be used to remotely measure concentration profiles of hydrocarbons in the atmosphere up to several hundred meters from a facility. DIAL has been used for refinery surveys in Europe for over 15 years. A pilot study carried out in 2005 using DIAL found that actual emissions at a refinery were fifteen times higher than those previously reported using the emission factor approach. The fugitive emissions were equivalent to 0.17% of the refinery throughput.[12]

Portable gas leak imaging cameras are also a new technology that can be used to improve leak detection and repair, leading to reduced fugitive emissions. The cameras use infrared imaging technology to produce video images in which invisible gases escaping from leak sources can be clearly identified.


Natural gas[edit]

Fugitive gas emissions are emissions of gas (typically natural gas, which contains methane) to atmosphere or groundwater[13] which result from oil and gas or coal mining activity.[14] In 2016, these emissions, when converted to their equivalent impact of carbon dioxide, accounted for 5.8% of all global greenhouse gas emissions.[14]

Most fugitive emissions are the result of loss of well integrity through poorly sealed well casings due to geochemically unstable cement.[15] This allows gas to escape through the well itself (known as surface casing vent flow) or via lateral migration along adjacent geological formations (known as gas migration).[15] Approximately 1-3% of methane leakage cases in unconventional oil and gas wells are caused by imperfect seals and deteriorating cement in wellbores.[15] Some leaks are also the result of leaks in equipment, intentional pressure release practices, or accidental releases during normal transportation, storage, and distribution activities.[16][17][18]

Emissions can be measured using either ground-based or airborne techniques.[15][16][19] In Canada, the oil and gas industry is thought to be the largest source of greenhouse gas and methane emissions,[20] and approximately 40% of Canada's emissions originate from Alberta.[17] Emissions are largely self-reported by companies. The Alberta Energy Regulator keeps a database on wells releasing fugitive gas emissions in Alberta,[21] and the British Columbia Oil and Gas Commission keeps a database of leaky wells in British Columbia. Testing wells at the time of drilling was not required in British Columbia until 2010, and since then 19% of new wells have reported leakage problems. This number may be a low estimate, as suggested by fieldwork completed by the David Suzuki Foundation.[13] Some studies have shown a range of 6-30% of wells suffer gas leakage.[19][21][22][23]

Canada and Alberta have plans for policies to reduce emissions, which may help combat climate change.[24][25] Costs related to reducing emissions are very location-dependent and can vary widely.[26] Methane has a greater global warming impact than carbon dioxide, as its radiative force is 120, 86 and 34 times that of carbon dioxide, when considering a 1, 20 and 100 year time frame (including Climate Carbon Feedback [27] [28][21] Additionally, it leads to increases in carbon dioxide concentration through its oxidation by water vapor.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Climate Change Indicators: Atmospheric Concentrations of Greenhouse Gases". Washington, DC: United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 2021-07-21.
  2. ^ Thibault Laconde (2018). "Fugitive emissions: A blind spot in the fight against climate change". www.climate-chance.org. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  3. ^ Butler, James H.; Montzka, Stephen A. (Spring 2021). "The NOAA Annual Greenhouse Gas Index (AGGI)". Global Monitoring Laboratory/Earth System Research Laboratories. Boulder, CO: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.
  4. ^ Simmonds, P. G., Rigby, M., Manning, A. J., Park, S., Stanley, K. M., McCulloch, A., Henne, S., Graziosi, F., Maione, M., and 19 others (2020) "The increasing atmospheric burden of the greenhouse gas sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)". Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20: 7271–7290. doi:10.5194/acp-20-7271-2020
  5. ^ McGrath, Matt (2018-07-09). "China 'home foam' gas key to ozone mystery". BBC News. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  6. ^ "Methane Tracker - Analysis". International Energy Agency (Paris). 2019-11-01. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  7. ^ Michelle Lewis (2019-12-18). "New satellite technology reveals Ohio gas leak released 60K tons of methane". Electrek. Retrieved 2021-02-24.
  8. ^ Fialka, John (2018-03-09). "Meet the satellite that can pinpoint methane and carbon dioxide leaks". Scientific American. Retrieved 2020-02-24.
  9. ^ Clearstone Engineering (1994). "A National Inventory of Greenhouse Gas (GHG), Criteria Air Contaminant (CAC) and Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) Emissions by the Upstream Oil and Gas Industry, Volume 1, Overview of the GHG Emissions Inventory". Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers: v. Retrieved 2008-12-10. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Global Emissions". Arlington, VA: Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. 6 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Fenceline Monitoring". EPA. 2018-05-11.
  12. ^ Chambers, Allan; Tony Wootton; Jan Moncrieff; Philip McCready (August 2008). "Direct Measurement of Fugitive Emissions of Hydrocarbons from a Refinery". Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association. 58 (8): 1047–1056. doi:10.3155/1047-3289.58.8.1047. PMID 18720654. S2CID 1035294.
  13. ^ a b Wisen, Joshua; Chesnaux, Romain; Werring, John; Wendling, Gilles; Baudron, Paul; Barbecot, Florent (2017-10-01). "A Portrait of Oil and Gas Wellbore Leakage in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada". GeoOttawa2017.
  14. ^ a b Ritchie, Hannah; Roser, Max (11 May 2020). "Emissions by sector". Our World in Data. Retrieved 30 July 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d Cahill, Aaron G.; Steelman, Colby M.; Forde, Olenka; Kuloyo, Olukayode; Ruff, S. Emil; Mayer, Bernhard; Mayer, K. Ulrich; Strous, Marc; Ryan, M. Cathryn (27 March 2017). "Mobility and persistence of methane in groundwater in a controlled-release field experiment". Nature Geoscience. 10 (4): 289–294. Bibcode:2017NatGe..10..289C. doi:10.1038/ngeo2919. ISSN 1752-0908.
  16. ^ a b Caulton, Dana R.; Shepson, Paul B.; Santoro, Renee L.; Sparks, Jed P.; Howarth, Robert W.; Ingraffea, Anthony R.; Cambaliza, Maria O. L.; Sweeney, Colm; Karion, Anna (2014-04-29). "Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (17): 6237–6242. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.6237C. doi:10.1073/pnas.1316546111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4035982. PMID 24733927.
  17. ^ a b Lopez, M.; Sherwood, O.A.; Dlugokencky, E.J.; Kessler, R.; Giroux, L.; Worthy, D.E.J. (June 2017). "Isotopic signatures of anthropogenic CH 4 sources in Alberta, Canada". Atmospheric Environment. 164: 280–288. Bibcode:2017AtmEn.164..280L. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2017.06.021.
  18. ^ "ICF Methane Cost Curve Report". Environmental Defense Fund. March 2014. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  19. ^ a b Atherton, Emmaline; Risk, David; Fougere, Chelsea; Lavoie, Martin; Marshall, Alex; Werring, John; Williams, James P.; Minions, Christina (2017). "Mobile measurement of methane emissions from natural gas developments in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada". Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. 17 (20): 12405–12420. doi:10.5194/acp-2017-109.
  20. ^ Johnson, Matthew R.; Tyner, David R.; Conley, Stephen; Schwietzke, Stefan; Zavala-Araiza, Daniel (2017-11-07). "Comparisons of Airborne Measurements and Inventory Estimates of Methane Emissions in the Alberta Upstream Oil and Gas Sector". Environmental Science & Technology. 51 (21): 13008–13017. Bibcode:2017EnST...5113008J. doi:10.1021/acs.est.7b03525. ISSN 0013-936X. PMID 29039181.
  21. ^ a b c Bachu, Stefan (2017). "Analysis of gas leakage occurrence along wells in Alberta, Canada, from a GHG perspective – Gas migration outside well casing". International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control. 61: 146–154. doi:10.1016/j.ijggc.2017.04.003.
  22. ^ Boothroyd, I.M.; Almond, S.; Qassim, S.M.; Worrall, F.; Davies, R.J. (March 2016). "Fugitive emissions of methane from abandoned, decommissioned oil and gas wells". Science of the Total Environment. 547: 461–469. Bibcode:2016ScTEn.547..461B. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.12.096. PMID 26822472.
  23. ^ A. Ingraffea, R. Santoro, S. B. Shonkoff, Wellbore Integrity: Failure Mechanisms, Historical Record, and Rate Analysis. EPA’s Study Hydraul. Fract. Its Potential Impact Drink. Water Resour. 2013 Tech. Work. Present. Well Constr. Subsurf. Model. (2013) (available at http://www2.epa.gov/hfstudy/2013-technical-workshop-presentations-0)
  24. ^ Alberta Government (2015). "Climate Leadership Plan". Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  25. ^ Pan-Canadian framework on clean growth and climate change : canada's plan to address climate change and grow the economy. Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Gatineau, Québec. 2016. ISBN 9780660070230. OCLC 969538168.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  26. ^ Munnings, Clayton; Krupnick, Alan J. (2017-07-10). "Comparing Policies to Reduce Methane Emissions in the Natural Gas Sector". Resources for the Future. Retrieved 2018-03-17.
  27. ^ Myhre, G.; Shindell, D.; Bréon, F.-M.; Collins, W.; et al. (2013). "Chapter 8: Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing" (PDF). IPCC AR5 WG1 2013. pp. 659–740.
  28. ^ Etminan, M.; Myhre, G.; Highwood, E. J.; Shine, K. P. (2016-12-28). "Radiative forcing of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide: A significant revision of the methane radiative forcing". Geophysical Research Letters. 43 (24): 2016GL071930. Bibcode:2016GeoRL..4312614E. doi:10.1002/2016GL071930. ISSN 1944-8007.
  29. ^ Myhre; Shindell; Bréon; Collins; Fuglestvedt; Huang; Koch; Lamarque; Lee; Mendoza; Nakajima; Robock; Stephens; Takemura; Zhang (2013). "Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing". In Stocker; Qin; Plattner; Tignor; Allen; Boschung; Nauels; Xia; Bex; Midgley (eds.). Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press.

External links[edit]