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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems Program: Research Continues to Yield Benefits

Coastal Impact Technology

A legacy of improving environmental performance

"Oil Pump Jack" by Paul Lowry

Written by Carolyn LaFleur, Research Scientist, Energy Production

Engaging partners in the oil and gas industry and academia, HARC’s Environmentally Friendly Drilling Systems Program (EFD) developed and executed the highly successful Coastal Impacts Technology Program (CITP) which concluded in 2016. CITP focused on developing practical, cost-effective solutions to address environmental aspects of oil and gas activities in the Texas Coastal Zone. A year after the program has concluded one outstanding project is building upon research accomplishments funded by CITP.

Under the direction of Dr. Kim Jones of the Texas A&M University Kingsville (TAMU-K) Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment researchers demonstrated the feasibility of innovative technology to reduce emissions at oil and gas sites. The project, entitled “Innovative Biological Emissions Treatment Technology to Reduce Air Pollution” developed and tested a bioreactor to treat air emissions at oil and gas facilities. Leveraging accomplishments of the project funded by CITP a team of graduate students led by Dr. Jones continue the work of optimizing the design and publishing findings of research efforts.

Tanks that store oil and produced water at production facilities often vent to the atmosphere. These emissions can contain hydrocarbon vapor and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), some of which are hazardous. The biological treatment system tested in this project represents a breakthrough in providing an effective alternative to flaring of tank vent vapor to destroy VOCs. The two-stage bio-oxidation process utilizes a bio-tricking treatment unit and a biofilter. Air emissions captured from the storage tank vents are blown through the process, while water is circulated through the system to help nourish the microbes that do the work of removing contaminants. While both stages of the treatment process make use of microbes, the function in each stage is different.

Researchers developed and tested the two-stage biofiltration technology that destroys pollutants at ambient temperatures without generating secondary pollutants that result from flaring. In this approach, two types of biological treatment are used together in tandem. Microorganisms use the contaminants as food, transforming them into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass. An industrial collaborator, James Boswell of Boswell Environmental, an expert in the use of this technology in other applications assisted in the design and construction of experimental equipment as well as data analysis.

This important work was presented at the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) 2017 Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas. The paper, SPE-187144-MS, published in conference proceedings, is entitled “Design and Implementation of a Field Test for Biological Based VOC Emission Control for an Oil and Gas Production Facility in East Texas”, The paper is authored by TAMU-K PhD candidate Shooka Khoramfar, Dr. Kim Jones, Regents Professor, Interim Chair & Director of the TAMU-K Institute for Sustainable Energy and the Environment, James Boswell of Boswell Environmental, and George E. King, Distinguished Engineering Advisor at Apache Corporation who provided access to the active production site where the unit was tested.

In addition to proving the effectiveness of this low-cost treatment system, the project also demonstrated a collaborative effort of academia, business interests, and the oil and gas industry to advance commercialization of vanguard technology. The EFD CITP that funded the groundbreaking work was made possible by the Coastal Impact Assistance Program (CIAP) administered in Texas by the General Land Office. CIAP has facilitated meaningful investment of revenue sharing funds from offshore oil and gas production for environmental impact mitigation, conservation and restoration, and enhancements to benefit the natural environment, economic activity, and employment.

For more information about the two-stage biotreament unit, and how it was developed and tested, go to our previously published article “Coastal Impacts Technology Program: Environmental Research Funded by Offshore Oil and Gas Revenue Sharing”.