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Stop methane flaring? Yes, we can


Methane flaring from oil and gas fields is a huge waste of energy and is clouding the reputation of a whole industry facing increasing challenges due to climate change.

That’s why the UK government plans to ban venting and flaring of gases from 2030. It’s also why methane has been one of the key issues on the negotiating table at the COP28 climate talks, in Dubai,

This renewed urgency for climate action has meant that AESSEAL and our partners Torishima UK have been working all-out for several years to produce an engineering solution to venting and flaring that many experts have been sceptical could be produced to this tight timescale. Separately, the AES Engineering Group Ltd has established a strategic partnership with Torishima Japan Co., Ltd.

I am delighted to announce that the result of our joint design and manufacturing capability, EcoGuardTM, a highly engineered product ideal for retro-fitting in the world’s global oil and gas facilities, is now at the prototype testing stage and will be ready to market early next year. That’s six years before the deadline.

EcoGuard seeks to eliminate or reduce both intermittent and continuous emissions and could be retrofitted to oil and gas facilities across the world.

Put simply, EcoGuard is a small but powerful booster pump that transports gas around a rig’s compressor in a similar way to a central heating system circulating water around a house. The booster maintains the flow of gas during intermittent shutdowns, an established practice that removes the need for deliberate emissions to prevent contamination of the system. In the inventive step, the booster also keeps the seal clean to stop leakage throughout continuous operation.

A particular target is stopping the emissions of methane, a gas which is 80 times more damaging to the climate than CO2.

What’s the rush? Mark Wilson from the industry body Offshore Energies UK is quoted on Sky as saying that retrofitting oil and gas installations “would be difficult within the timeframe that we're looking at… It could also mean having to turn sites off.” Others are suggesting that financial incentives may be necessary. However, since oil and gas is hugely profitable, many industry leaders now realise that the time has come for action.

The EcoGuard project arises from a desire by our internal dry gas seal team to stop this environmentally damaging practice. We have a patent pending, and chose Torishima UK in Scotland as the perfect partner to manufacture the device, as they are leading pump experts.

To put it simply, EcoGuard is a booster pump within the gas conditioning system, which ensures that high pressure clean gas always remains in the compressor, keeping the seal clean and eliminating the need for venting.

We have calculated that approximately 424m³ of greenhouse gases, predominately methane, is currently released into the atmosphere during a single venting or blowdown of a gas compressor.​

A single peak load compressor may be shut down and restarted up to 40 times per year. Extrapolate this world-wide and the urgency becomes clear.

Let’s look at the case study of Scotland, which has close to 90% of UK oil and gas production. In 2019, over 1 billion cubic metres of gas was flared from Scottish facilities, releasing 2.9 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, which was 21% of the total amount of CO2 released in Scotland.​

Not only is this damaging, it is extremely wasteful. The gas flared off could have been used for heating and is equivalent to the total energy consumption of Glasgow, where EcoGuard will be produced at Torishima’s plant in the city.

The project was undertaken as part of our 29by29 pledge to invest £29 million by 2029 in projects which are primarily aimed at improving the environment.

My interest is in the environment. AESSEAL does not make pumps and the EcoGuard technology does not use seals but I would like to turn off the industrial-scale bunsen burners that are destroying the planet for my grandchildren. On a case specific basis, I will give our competitors a royalty-free licence as the environment needs all the help it can get.

At AES Engineering, our main global brands AESSEAL and AVT Reliability, regularly partner with customers and suppliers who share our determination to cut waste, stop excess water use, eliminate pollution and tackle climate change.

If you have a tough problem, come and talk to us.

Written by Chris Rea, Group Managing Director, CBE, DL, BSc, CEng, HonFIMechE.
Follow Chris on Linkedin 


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