ABB, a technology leader in electrification and automation, has highlighted how its emissions monitoring technology is now employed to identify and monitor orphan wells in the United States.
With the help of ABB technology, organisations such as The Well Done Foundation, the nonprofit organisation that works to plug orphan oil and gas wells in the country, can detect leaking wells and, once the wells are capped, continue to monitor the sites to ensure they no longer emit harmful greenhouse gases.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency estimates that methane emissions from over two million inactive, unplugged wells, of which orphan wells are a subset, range from a CO2 equivalent of 7 to 20 million metric tons per year (approximately the emissions of two to five million cars). Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere, according to the Environment Defense Fund.
“It is extremely rewarding to see our technologies employed in the endeavor of fixing such a pressing environmental problem. We remain focused on accelerating the pace of environmental programmes that reduce emissions, especially in the oil and gas industry. Our work on this initiative is a great example of how technology can benefit the environment and help countries achieve their sustainability goals,” sayid Jacques Mulbert, Division President, ABB Measurement & Analytics.
Together with channel partner Winn-Marion, ABB worked to create a comprehensive approach that enables the identification, on-site qualification, and monitoring of orphan wells.
Initially, ABB’s gas leak detection system is used to find the orphan wells. Depending on their location, the high sensitivity analysers using OA-ICOS technology are transported by vehicle (using ABB Ability MobileGuard), drone (HoverGuard), or backpack (MicroGuard) to the site. The system can detect methane emissions down to one part per billion (ppb).
Once on-site, it measures methane concentration and flow with a measuring range as low as 180kg/h. The flow from the thermal mass is logged and visualised on ABB’s gas flow computers, the control devices known in the industry for their extreme accuracy and reliability. In the post-plugging phase, methane emissions continue to be monitored.