In an effort to further reduce volatile organic compounds and methane from new, modified and reconstructed sources in the oil and gas sector, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued OOOOa (Quad Oa) May 12, 2016. The updates to Quad Oa add methane to the list of pollutants covered by the original rule. Guidelines were added for detecting and repairing leaks at various sources within wellsite or compressor stations, among other rules.

Detailed recordkeeping and reporting requirements also were implemented within the new rule, which have operators scrambling to maintain compliance. By using advanced logic controls that collect and assimilate data, OTA Compression/KIMARK simplifies and automates the required reporting and recordkeeping, saving operators time and money.

Data management

Combining proprietary software advances with Modbus communication protocol, accessory equipment is interfaced with burner management systems (BMS), vapor recovery units (VRUs), vapor combustor units and flowmeters to generate compliant reporting and analytical data to help manage well sites efficiently and economically.

“Operating the BMS system could not be easier, and all the data generated make assembling reports much simpler,” said an operator from Williams. “With multiple ways to generate data, retrieving data logged to the flash memory card or tying our system directly in to the KIMARK control panel, we have all the required data at our disposal.”

The operator added that a few of the key numbers the company analyzes and sends to the EPA include run time/uptime, amount of failed/downtime, temperatures, valve state verification and venting occurrences.

"With the ability to examine these data ourselves, we are able to troubleshoot our own equipment and maximize the run time on our units and prevent downtime or venting situations,” the operator said.

A BMS with onboard Modbus, data logging, remote input/output, analog input/output and ultraviolet flame detection ensures compliance. (Source: OTA Compression)

Smarter flare management

As stated in Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations 60.18 (2), flares shall be operated with a flame present at all times, and there must be a recording of time, date and duration of any pilot flame loss or auto-ignition failure. In addition to recording flame losses or auto-ignition failures, the KIMARK Smart Flare system reports the number of auto-ignition attempts and pilot outages. These datapoints assist in further diagnostics of unit performance.

“The flare system has built-in features that make environmental reporting much easier,” said an operations manager at OXY. “Onboard flow rate and gas measurement on both the pilot and main burner lines let us know exactly how much gas is being burned in the unit. The unit is set to come on and go off at certain user-confi gurable pressure set points.”

These set points are tailored to each specifi c location and the amount of pressure those storage tanks can hold, the manager said.

“Some storage facilities have water and oil tanks manifolded together, requiring the Smart Flare to operate at lower pressure running points to prevent venting. If a vent relief valve is tied into the Smart Flare, the valve will log any venting time and occurrences as well. Part of our operator’s duties is to gather unit run times and vapors burned each day from the smart fl are control station.

“We also have the ability to track all of these data with them being saved to a data chip and also [the ability to] log on to our server via our SCADA system. Regulations have only become stricter, but the KIMARK Smart Flare generates all the data we need to stay in compliance,” the manager said.

VRU reporting, savings

Detailed reports can be generated from the VRUs and wellhead compression to help maintain compliance with federal and state regulations and document profi tability. The onboard computer system gathers the data and then summarizes and graphs out critical datapoints such as inlet pressure, stack temperature, fl ame intensity level, igniter retries and more.

Operators can determine if there is a problem with their thief hatch or venting from the data that are obtained and make adjustments accordingly. From the data the savings attained can be calculated through recovered vapors.

For example, a VRU that services four wells with a common tank battery recovering 1,359 cu. m/d (48 Mcf/d) of 1,704 Btu vapor providing incremental annual revenue of more than $200,000 results in a 180% return on investment and multiple intangible benefi ts.

The data provide operators with the knowledge needed to manage costs and realize equipment payouts within a few months. They can then calculate future revenue streams based on recovered vapors. It is a silver lining as a result of the stricter regulations.

Fugitive emissions detection

With the addition of Quad Oa regulations, fugitive emissions from new, modifi ed and reconstructed well sites and compressor stations are monitored. Operators must create a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program to identify and repair gas leaks. A fugitive emission is any emission visible using optical gas imaging or a reading of 500 ppm or greater using EPA’s Method 21.

Operators must conduct an initial LDAR survey within 60 days of startup or modifi cation. Subsequent surveys are conducted semi-annually for well sites and quarterly for compressor stations, thereafter separated by at least 120 days for well sites or 60 days for compressor stations. The initial compliance period concludes June 3. Initial surveys are to be conducted before this compliance period ends.

Optical gas imaging cameras are used for gas leak detection in leak monitoring surveys and site surveys. Many chemical compounds and gases are invisible to the naked eye. The FLIR GF-Series infrared cameras produce a full picture of the scanned area, and the fugitive gas appears as smoke. The image is viewed in real time and can be recorded, stored and used in reporting EPA compliance. If leaks are found during a survey, operators must replace or repair the sources of any detected fugitive emissions “as soon as practicable but no later than 30 days after detection,” per the regulation.

Once the leaks are repaired, the location must be resurveyed within 30 days to ensure that the leak has been corrected. Operators can place all of their stations into a single monitoring plan or create multiple plans based on how they internally organize their facilities. OTA/KIMARK will prepare a comprehensive report with pictures, leak source (if applicable) and resolution as well as a statement of compliance and all other necessary documentation to comply with the Quad Oa guidelines in regard to LDAR testing.