With the World Bank’s 2030 zero-flaring initiative deadline approaching, reducing flare gas is becoming a priority. This series examines the various ways companies and countries can achieve this, from increased pipeline infrastructure, to installing flare gas recovery systems.
This blog examines the existing pipeline infrastructure in the U.S., the links between this and flaring, and what the U.S. has in the “pipeline” for natural gas and the industry.
Using Natural Gas
One method to reduce flare gas is to send the gas that would have been burned to market. This involves an appropriate delivery method and processing of the gas to ensure it can be used. For the natural gas that’s currently being flared, that delivery method is pipelines.
The U.S. isn’t without pipeline infrastructure. In 2017, the U.S. natural gas pipeline network consisted of about 3 million miles of pipeline and delivered around 25 trillion cubic feet of gas to 75 million customers. And it’s still expanding. When measured by length, North America holds 48% of worldwide gas pipelines in development. There are currently over 160 new U.S. gas pipeline projects planned, with a capacity of 113 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d). This ongoing expansion is already affecting natural gas exports and domestic usage.
In 2018, the U.S.’ total gas exports grew by 14% and LNG exports by 53%. The gas is used within the country as well. 50% of the homes in the U.S. use natural gas to heat buildings and water and it accounts for 32% of the industrial sectors total energy consumption.
Flaring in the Permian Basin
Despite this level of natural gas usage and exportation, flaring is still a huge issue in America. One such example of this is the Permian Basin.
In the first quarter of 2019, natural gas flaring and venting in the Permian Basin reached an all-time high, with producers burning or venting 661 million cubic feet per day (Mcfd). It is common opinion that in order to reduce this figure, more pipelines are needed, and more are on their way. In October this year, the Gulf Coast Express pipeline will be coming online. This pipeline was built to serve the Permian Basin and is designed to transport up to 2 Bcf/d of natural gas. The next pipeline servicing the Permian Basin, the Permian Highway pipeline, is due to go live a year later in October 2020. This is designed to transport a further 2.1 Bcf/d.
Natural Gas Compression and Flare Metering
Flaring isn’t just involved in the extraction process. In order to ensure gas flow is efficient and safe, the gas needs to be regularly compressed. This is done at gas compression stations which are usually situated every 40-70 miles along the pipe. For safety, these stations may include flares. Flares in this case are used to deal with any leakage or disposing of gas when maintenance needs to be completed.
Alongside increased infrastructure, existing flaring must continue to be accurately monitored to ensure companies meet the regulations put in place to help reduce flaring. Fluenta currently have multiple installs and upcoming flare measurement projects along the US the Gulf Coast,. Fluenta’s FGM 160 meter is capable of measuring flare gas to an accuracy of up to +/1%. An accuracy of 5% is typically required by U.S. regulators.
To read more about Fluenta’s FGM 160 meter and how it can help you meet the most stringent regulations, visit our FGM 160 product page.