There is an increased urgency and demand to reduce emissions as the global effects of climate change become more dire. Every sustainability strategy, whether around using cleaner fuels and renewables, capturing carbon dioxide, and improving energy efficiency, is directly or indirectly geared toward reducing emissions.
According to the US EPA, industrial production and electricity generation accounts for almost half (48%) of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) globally. The hydrocarbon industry is a large piece of this, as it accounts for 42% of all emissions from industrial operations.
Automation technologies, software, and analytics are available today that can help build out a step-by-step and scalable strategy towards emissions reduction with three focus areas – prevent leaks from occurring in the first place, produce fewer emissions by reducing carbon intensity of energy sources, and run processes with more efficient combustion and lower emissions.
There are two main forms of emissions at an industrial site – operational emissions, which are a byproduct of combustion, and fugitive emissions, which occur when containment of gases and volatile liquids is lost due to leaky valves, corroded piping, or faulty mechanical connections.
The Big Fix in Emissions Reduction: Valves, Flanges and Leaks
One of the easiest ways to progress on emissions reduction is to focus on fugitive emissions – leaks through pipes, flanges, and valves, along with venting and flaring, account for as much as 90% of all fugitive emissions.
A solutions approach can be rooted in equipment design: Over-pressure protection systems can prevent pressure buildup in downstream equipment, preventing pressure relief and blowdown situations, reducing the need for venting and flaring. Similarly, designing valve technologies with superior packing and mechanical seals reduces or eliminates fugitive emissions. For critical applications where gas emissions are a significant concern, cavity-free and weld-end valve designs are a key prevention measure.
Finally, vapor recovery systems can be utilized to recover light hydrocarbons or gases from liquids that are removed by pigging operations. Gases rich in hydrocarbons tend to condense liquids in gathering systems upstream of gas-gathering and processing plants. These pipelines are periodically pigged, and condensate is removed and moved to a low-pressure storage tank.
Optimizing combustion through the accurate control of fuel-to-air ratios through instrumented systems is a robust and demonstrated way to reduce burner emissions.
Detection of emissions through acoustic sensors is a great way to understand discharge through pressure relief valves. Emerson’s Plantweb Insight platform provides operators with dashboards that can provide real-time insight into the number of relief valve discharge and estimate production loss.
Another crucial step in emissions reduction is an overall understanding of the plant’s emissions profile. Continuous Emissions Monitoring Systems (CEMS) are an effective way to analyze emissions to understand constituent gases and get a deeper understanding of combustion systems’ efficiency and ensure compliance with environmental guidelines.
Similarly, optimal leak detection systems across transmission pipelines also promise to reduce greenhouse emissions (particularly in the case of gas pipelines) through early identification that can prompt remedial approaches.
Advanced Digital technologies today are enabling operators to create AI/ML-based models of targeted combustion processes (at a unit level for gas turbines, boilers, and furnaces or for complex units such as FCC’s and SRU’s) based on instrumented parameters such as pressure, temperature, and flow measurements to arrive at a predicted value for most emissions and pollutants. Predictive Emissions Monitoring Systems are a cost-effective and highly robust method of attaining real-time emissions data.
Automation Technologies from Emerson allow for a step-by-step and meaningful way to reduce combustion-related and fugitive emissions through an approach that optimizes combustion processes by ensuring the prevention and reduction of emissions through accurate monitoring. Learn more about this when you visit Emerson at this year’s ADIPEC. Speak to our experts at our booth!