Posted October 13, 2016
Making industry operations more energy efficient makes sense on two levels: It’s good for the environment and it’s good for business. It’s another way the oil and natural gas industry is making a difference in areas and communities across the country.
For example, ConocoPhillips has reduced emissions and improved the efficiency of its operations in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin by replacing equipment, optimizing plunger lift operations and compression, increasing the use of photovoltaic solar panels and using solar-powered chemical injection units in place of gas-powered pumps on some wells. The company also looks for opportunities to use alternative energy sources for its well pad operations.
The results are encouraging. ConocoPhillips reduced its carbon dioxide equivalent (a unit of measure for greenhouse gas emissions) in the San Juan Basin by 26 percent between 2014 and 2015.
ConocoPhillips isn’t alone. Other companies see the internal and societal benefits of pursuing energy efficiency in operations and are incorporating them into their business. These efforts include building cogeneration facilities, refurbishing or installing more energy-efficient equipment and even making their corporate headquarters and other office buildings more energy efficient.
Adopting Cogeneration Technology
Cogeneration technology captures extra energy – in the form of steam or heat that otherwise would be lost – generated during the production of electricity, and recycles it to generate even more electricity. In the oil and natural gas industry, cogeneration is often used to generate additional electricity for use in production, refining and chemical processing operations, and it helps increase energy efficiency and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.
Occidental's Ingleside Cogeneration Limited Partnership in Texas and Taft Cogeneration in Louisiana produce 450 megawatts (MW) and 800 MW of electricity, respectively. These facilities provide all of the steam and electricity necessary for other Occidental facilities nearby.
The cogeneration facility at Marathon Petroleum’s Galveston Bay Refinery in Texas has 1,055 MW of electrical production capacity and can produce 4.3 million pounds of steam every hour. In 2015, the refinery used approximately 46 percent of the power that the cogeneration facility generated and provided the remaining electricity to the electrical grid.
Chevron operates the Chevron Power Holding Company facility in California, the first large cogeneration plant in the state. In addition, the company built an $80 million cogeneration facility in El Segundo, Calif., that provides electrical and steam power to Chevron’s nearby refinery.
Retrofitting and Installing New Equipment
Industry is also increasing the energy efficiency of operations by retrofitting or installing new equipment at sites across the country. For instance, Occidental is installing energy-efficient electrical equipment and distribution systems to provide electric power across all its oil, gas and chemicals operations that would otherwise use gas or diesel engines.
At some of its sites, Apache is increasing the use of natural gas. The company fitted some of its oil rigs in Texas with blending kits that allow them to operate on a mix of natural gas and diesel. In rural New Mexico, where easy access to the electrical grid is not available, Apache is using locally produced natural gas to power production equipment. These efforts help to lower the company’s emissions, as well as its fuel costs. As part of its best management practices for reducing greenhouse emissions, Anadarko uses natural gas and low-emission diesel to power its well pad operations, and has also replaced dated and less efficient compressors.
In California’s San Joaquin Valley, as well as at other oil fields, Chevron improved the performance of oil field pumps using adjustable speed drives. This helps to save energy and reduce maintenance costs. And ExxonMobil was among the first companies to install wet gas scrubbers at its U.S. refineries to remove particulates from air emission streams and help reduce emissions. Wet gas scrubbers are now widely used at refineries worldwide.
Increasing Energy Efficiency at Corporate Offices
Companies also are pursuing energy efficiency at corporate offices. Chevron’s Northpark building in Louisiana is the first building in the state to earn gold certification in the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The building is designed to use 22 percent less energy than buildings of comparable size. In additional, green screens are installed across the building providing real time information on energy usage, encouraging individuals to monitoring their use throughout the day.
Similarly, when Devon Energy opened its new headquarters in Oklahoma City in 2012, it was the largest building of its kind to achieve the LEED gold certification. It was built on the site of a former trolley station and auto repair shop, and thanks in part to high-performance, thermal, three-panel windows, it uses 20 percent less energy. Low flow water fixtures and drought tolerate landscaping help to use 41 percent less water than other buildings of a similar size.
Office buildings on ExxonMobil’s Houston campus are 40 percent more energy efficient than a typical office building. A number of unique features make this possible, including windows that are designed to allow the optimal amount of light into the building while minimizing radiant heat. (Learn more about how ExxonMobil’s Houston campus is also conserving green space.)
Anadarko is also making energy-efficient lighting and cooling system upgrades to its offices. Installed in Hackett Tower in The Woodlands, Texas, in 2013, these upgrades are estimated to save more than 1.3 million kWh of electricity per year. This is equivalent to saving more than 900 metric tons of carbon dioxide or planting nearly 750 acres of forest. In fact, local electricity provider Entergy recognized and commended Anadarko for these upgrades and the resulting energy savings as part of its Texas Commercial Solutions Program.
With electricity use in the United States expected to continue to grow, energy efficiency efforts will become more important in the coming years. Industry’s efficiency efforts recognize the value of reducing its own use of electricity and reducing emissions from operations while protecting the environment and improving air quality. All play an important role in industry’s partnership with the states and communities where it is at work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Wallace is an associate of research and content development for the American Petroleum Institute. Before joining API she was a researcher and policy analyst at America’s Natural Gas Alliance, and worked on pollinator conservation programs and state wildlife conservation policies before entering the energy industry. Kate graduated from the University of Connecticut with a bachelor’s degree in Resource Economics, and earned her Master of Public Administration from George Mason University. She loves taking her dogs on hikes, travelling and navigating the northern Virginia/DC craft beer and wine scenes with her friends and family.