Environmental stewardship is a topic on everyone’s mind. Enthusiasm for “going green” is cropping up in all aspects of everyday life, ranging from television commercials to supermarket product labels. We are more likely to be concerned these days with how much energy a product uses or whether the method by which it is manufactured is efficient with regard to its environmental impact. The same can be said for pipeline operators seeking to proactively monitor and control their environmental footprint.
One of the primary environmental concerns for pipeline operators is air emissions. Emissions are generated through the operation of various equipment, including compressors, pumps, processing and other gas treatment facilities. Fugitive emissions can also be released from valves, vents, tanks and metering stations along a pipeline. Emissions from pipeline facilities are regulated by your state environmental agency and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and what such regulations entail depends on the type, source and amount of emission being released.
The goal for any pipeline operator is to abide by the terms and conditions of their permits and to comply with the applicable state and federal laws. Any release of emissions could result in a violation of the restrictions set forth in those permits. In addition, a release that occurs while the commodity is in transit can result in a loss of revenue for the company.
To prevent these situations from occurring, pipeline operators are using new technology to monitor and control the emissions released from their systems. One example of this is the use of infrared cameras, or IRs, that utilize thermal imaging, to examine emissions. These cameras provide the means to monitor facilities by identifying the wave patterns of the air around the individual pieces of equipment. The images captured by an IR camera can distinguish vapors or plumes from the ambient air and provide operators with the ability to determine the source of the emissions, if unknown, while also ensuring they are properly corrected. The benefit of IR cameras is that they can find emission sources that in the past have been difficult to detect.
Many companies have taken proactive steps to reduce their emissions by participating in voluntary reduction programs or by installing newer, more efficient equipment that uses less fuel and/or releases fewer emissions. These programs often require a significant financial investment and commitment from the company.