Skip to: Leak Detection and Repair | Understanding Emissions
Pioneer air quality experts work to achieve compliance with all applicable federal and state requirements, address issues surrounding air quality permitting and develop strategies to reduce emissions. Additionally, the Pioneer Health, Safety and Environmental team interprets new and proposed federal and state air quality rules in order to foster dialogue with regulators, industry peers and trade groups, and facilitate understanding of how these regulatory changes can impact the oil and gas industry. We pride ourselves in planning ahead for these changes.
Pioneer captures emissions from oil-well and gas-well completions in all of our assets – a process commonly referred to as green completions – and we recover emissions from condensate tanks during the completion phase. This is accomplished by constructing necessary facility infrastructure and permanent production equipment ahead of associated well completions. By routing flowback emissions directly to facilities and pipelines, they are captured in the completions process. Green completion flowback is one way that Pioneer utilizes gas recovery in our operations.
Pioneer also minimizes the flaring of gas in all of its operations; the exceptions being safety concerns during emergency or upset conditions and maintenance activities. Even though flares are needed in our facility operations for these purposes, Pioneer prefers capturing and routing our oil and gas products to pipelines. Pioneer installs vapor recovery units at all horizontal well tank batteries. At tank batteries handling high production volumes, Pioneer installs redundant vapor recovery units to protect against emission releases during vapor recovery unit downtime. These units operate by using electric-powered compressors that remove valuable vapors and gases (including methane) from the storage vessels at many of our facilities and routing them to pipelines. This strategy allows Pioneer to capture potential facility emissions and recover them as part of our value chain. Vapor recovery units are now part of the standard horizontal well tank battery design in our largest asset, the Permian basin.
An additional benefit of putting oil and gas products directly into pipelines is that it reduces the need to haul our product with tanker trucks. Tanker truck loading can create an emission source through the displacement of tank vapors. When tanker truck loading is necessary, however, Pioneer uses flares to control the resulting emissions.
Pioneer promotes environmentally sound operations practices by reducing air emissions associated with high-bleed, gas-driven pneumatic devices. Pneumatic devices powered by pressurized gas are a process control element in oil and gas facility engineering, and are components of compressors, separators, pressure vessels and piping. Pioneer has replaced, modified or retrofitted all existing high-bleed, gas-driven pneumatic controllers to low-emitting devices.
Additional methane emission reductions can be achieved by converting these pneumatic devices to operate on a compressed instrument air system. An instrument air system replaces the pressurized gas source with compressed atmospheric air, eliminating methane emissions and providing additional safety benefits. Our South Texas Asset Team is improving operational efficiency and reducing pneumatic device greenhouse gas emissions at 16 facilities through a project that converted all of the onsite pneumatic controllers to these instrument air systems.
In 2011, Pioneer began implementing a leak detection and repair (LDAR) program that our lease operators continue to use today as part of normal facility inspections. We utilize various techniques such as audio, visual, and olfactory inspections, optical gas imaging cameras, and Remote Methane Leak Detectors™ across all of Pioneer’s operations to monitor facilities for fugitive emissions. In 2014, our Colorado operations LDAR program was further developed to meet the specific requirements of Colorado Regulation 7 requirements. Colorado’s Regulation 7 requires oil and gas producers to inspect and repair hydrocarbon leaks from components at all existing and newly constructed well production facilities and compressor stations, followed by ongoing, regular inspections dedicated to leak detection, repair and reporting. In 2016, our companywide program was updated to comply with federal New Source Performance Standards OOOOa requirements, which enacted an LDAR program for new or modified upstream facilities and compressor stations.
Pioneer employs a team of thermographers who use optical gas imaging cameras and Remote Methane Leak Detectors to conduct surveys at our facilities, such as well sites, tank batteries, compressor stations, pipelines, and midstream facilities. Optical gas imaging cameras utilize infrared sensors to allow our thermographers to locate emissions not identifiable through other inspection methods. Each Pioneer thermographer receives biennial optical gas imaging training. The three-day certification training is designed to teach the proper safety practices, methods to set up and operate the imaging cameras, how to identify what gases can be found with the technology, and the different environmental conditions that affect gas-leak detection.
Remote Methane Leak Detectors are laser-based methane detectors that can quickly and efficiently detect leaks up to 100 feet away. When the infrared laser beam is transmitted from the device, some of the laser light is reflected back to an internal sensor, which can be used to deduce a methane concentration. Remote Methane Leak Detector training is provided to inspectors in accordance with manufacturer guidelines and regulatory requirements.
Pioneer owns nine optical gas imaging cameras and two Remote Methane Leak Detectors. In 2016, more than 13,190 optical gas imaging surveys were conducted at Pioneer wellheads, tank batteries, and compressor stations, with an additional 130 miles of pipeline inspected. Facilities are currently prioritized for surveys based upon the potential for fugitive emissions to occur, and annual optical gas imaging surveys are established as the baseline for our facilities. Some facilities have been identified as having a higher potential for emissions (e.g., larger tank batteries and compressor stations), and are surveyed at a semi-annual or quarterly frequency.
In addition to our standard LDAR program, Pioneer is testing continuous emissions monitoring systems on several tank batteries in the Permian Basin. These monitoring systems are designed to quickly detect and alert Pioneer to fugitive methane emissions, which may help us to quickly locate unexpected emissions and better direct our LDAR program.
Modern industry technologies and facility designs have dramatically outpaced the original efficiencies and design considerations within EPA emissions datasets and models. As the oil and gas industry continues innovating engineering and emissions management practices, new, more accurate data is needed to drive our decision-making process. Pioneer has initiated a program to study emissions, including methane, from our field operations.
We actively participate in multi-operator national studies, which require collaboration between peer operators, regulators, academia, industry trade groups and environmental non-governmental organizations. For these studies, Pioneer provides direct access to production sites and equipment, and assists in the design of safe-sampling protocols. The participation of Pioneer and other producers contribute to the development of methods for safely measuring methane emissions directly at the source and facilitates scientific analysis where little empirical data previously existed.
Currently, we are partnering with Colorado State University to better understand compressor station emissions in the gathering and boosting segment of the industry. Findings from these studies will further enhance our understanding of how oil and gas methane emissions contribute to the U.S. greenhouse gas inventory and identify opportunities for emissions reductions through best practices and technological solutions.
Our operational improvements contributed to a reduction in direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reportable to the EPA. Pioneer reported 2.78 million metric tonnes of GHG emissions (CO2 equivalent) to the EPA in 2016. Based on this value, our 2016 GHG emissions intensity was 22.32 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent per 1,000 barrels of gross oil-equivalent production (CO2 equivalent/MBOE). Our 2016 methane emission intensity was 6.14 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent/MBOE. Pioneer emissions reporting follows EPA GHG Reporting Program requirements that prescribe the methodologies to quantify GHG emissions, including methane, for each emission source category.
Pioneer uses EPA reporting requirements due to their specific reporting assumptions, applicable source category equipment, engineering calculations and emission factors. With the significant changes required by the EPA in 2016, we have selected 2016 as our emissions base year. As a vertically integrated company, EPA emissions reporting requirements capture most, but not all, of the emissions associated with Pioneer equipment or activities. However, we are working to better quantify other emission sources to develop a more comprehensive emissions inventory.
Pioneer is committed to preserving our environmental heritage through safe, efficient and environmentally sound business practices and operations.
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Pioneer employees work diligently to prevent spills, and we collaborate with regulators and landowners to minimize our footprint on the surface.
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Pioneer looks for innovative solutions to reduce water consumption, protect groundwater quality and respond transparently to public interest.