Statoil is working with General Electric in North Dakota’s Bakken oil field on a low-cost prototype to strip natural gas liquids, including butane and propane, out of the gas currently flared from oil operations, the New York Times reports. These liquids can be compressed and turned into a version of GE’s CNG in a Box, which the company launched in October 2012.
Though GE designed CNG in a Box as an on-site fueling product for fuel retailers, to be used with cars, taxis, buses and small trucks, Statoil plans to use the boxes to fuel equipment including drilling rigs. It has already converted the rigs to replace 40 percent of their diesel consumption with gas. The company could also collect gas from African and Asian operations for use in cooking.
A CNG in a Box costs about $1.1 million, and mobile processors cost about $500,000. Statoil plans to get its first pilot going by next month, and to have eight compression units running by the end of next year.
Natural gas flaring around the world emits 400 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, and while North Dakota oil producers have managed to reduce the proportion of flared produced gas from 36 to 29 percent, the absolute amount of gas flared increased as oil production rose.
This summer, Chevron’s Angola liquefied natural gas project shipped its first gas cargo. The project plans to capture natural gas produced from crude oil operations, reducing natural gas flaring and greenhouse gas emissions.
Takeaway: A Statoil pilot project offers some hope for reducing the wasteful process of natural gas flaring, but emissions from flaring continue to be high, with no comprehensive solution in sight.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.