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    Innovations in the oil and natural gas industry

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    The oil and natural gas industry have come a long way from the simple oil well pumpjacks that are so strongly associated with the early days of commercial oil production. 

    Both oil and natural gas play a big role in our lives, from heating our homes to fueling our cars, not to mention the thousands of everyday items we use that are made from refined petroleum products. The petroleum industry in general is an important part of Canada’s economy (we’re the fifth-largest producer of natural gas and the sixth-largest producer of crude oil in the world) and we have extensive oil and gas reserves all over the country...

    Both oil and natural gas play a big role in our lives, from heating our homes to fueling our cars, not to mention the thousands of everyday items we use that are made from refined petroleum products. The petroleum industry in general is an important part of Canada’s economy (we’re the fifth-largest producer of natural gas and the sixth-largest producer of crude oil in the world) and we have extensive oil and gas reserves all over the country.

    However, an important part of producing these resources is being responsible for the environmental footprint of the processes used to develop oil and natural gas, whether that’s concerning air, land or water. Canada’s oil and natural gas industry is working on ways to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and their impact on the natural landscape. With a growing demand for energy (due to a growing population and an evolving technological world), our reliance on oil and natural gas won’t be going away any time soon, so it’s important to develop these energy resources responsibly, with an outlook towards a more sustainable future.

    Innovation in the oil and natural gas industry centres on being more efficient, focused on “process innovation,” which is about producing more barrels of oil or cubic feet of natural gas through better processes and equipment. Some examples include:

    • Multi-well pads using horizontal drilling can access more of a reservoir than traditional extraction methods which drill vertically down. Horizontal drilling can reach new sections of a reservoir without having to build new well pads, thereby reducing the amount of land that is used and the impact on the surrounding landscape from deconstruction and movement of equipment to a new site.

     

    • Carbon capture and storage (CSS) is a technology that essentially pulls carbon from the air and stores it underground. First, carbon dioxide is separated out from other gases produced from burning fossil fuels or from industrial processes. Next, it is compressed and transported by pipelines (or other methods) to a suitable storage location, where it is injected several kilometres underground. It is stored in porous rock layers, where the pressure and temperature keep it in a liquid state. An impermeable rock layer exists above the storage reservoirs, keeping the carbon dioxide contained underground. These sites are monitored to ensure that carbon dioxide isn’t leaking into the air, soil or water.

     

    • Canada’s oil and natural gas sector made up between 21 to 26 per cent (depending on how downstream pipeline activities are counted) of GHG emissions in 2016. In Canada’s oilsands, the government requires that mining operators keep track of their carbon dioxide and methane emissions. A new project called GHGSat uses satellite technology to monitor and take measurements of emissions at different sites. The satellite, called CLAIRE, absorbs light at a specific wavelength to identify the gases (CO2 or methane) it needs to track and then uses the brightness of the spectral image to figure out how much of the gas is present in its field of view. This allows the satellite to provide emission rate estimates. Specifically, GHGSat is used in Canada’s oilsands to get more accurate readings on fugitive GHG emissions from tailings ponds and mine faces.

     

    • In situ (i.e., in place) extraction using steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) technology has been around for a while now and has a smaller environmental footprint than oilsands mining — it also uses less water and doesn’t produce tailings ponds. There are still improvements to be made and research is being conducted into new ways to produce oil in situ. Direct contact steam generation (DCSG) is a new technology for producing the steam in situ production, which is used to heat bitumen so that it can be pumped to the surface. In SAGD, conventional boilers are used to heat water and produce steam, a process that produces GHG emissions, as well as pollutants that need to be removed from the air. This process is not as efficient as DCSG, which use a special type of burner that puts water in direct contact with the oxygen-fuel mix used in combustion. This creates steam and carbon dioxide, which can then be pumped underground for bitumen extraction. Some of the carbon dioxide from the steam mixture can also be sequestered underground (similar to CSS). In addition, water in this type of system can be recycled multiple times.

    Source:

    https://context.capp.ca/interviews/2018/interview_peter-tertzakian-on-oil-and-gas-innovation
    https://context.capp.ca/interviews/2018/interview_steve-bryant-on-oil-and-gas-innovation
    https://context.capp.ca/interviews/2018/interview_john-zhou-on-oil-and-gas-innovation
    https://www.canadasnaturalgas.ca/en/explore-topics/innovation
    https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/energy-investing/oil-and-gas-investing/multi-well-pad-drilling-technology-and-improving-north-americas-drilling-efficiency-and-shale-oil-boom/
    https://geology.com/articles/horizontal-drilling/
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/theworldpost/wp/2018/05/31/carbon-capture/?noredirect=on
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/what-on-earth-newsletter-carbon-capture-invasive-species-1.5147273
    https://www.alberta.ca/carbon-capture-and-storage.aspx
    http://www.ccsassociation.org/what-is-ccs/
    https://www.cosia.ca/initiatives/greenhouse-gases/projects/cosia-space
    https://www.ghgsat.com/who-we-are/our-satellites/claire/
    https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy/oil-sands/19647

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