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Quantifying Cost-effectiveness of Systematic Leak Detection and Repair Program Using Infrared Cameras

About 30% of the US anthropogenic methane emissions originate from the oil and natural gas sector. Emissions are partly leaks and partly engineered vents.

Almost 30% of methane emissions from onshore oil and natural gas facilities are from leaks (1), which here means fugitive leaks past static seals on valves, connectors, regulators, or other components. This report presents results from an empirical analysis of real data on the costs and benefits of leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs at oil and natural gas facilities. These programs use infrared cameras to detect sources of gas emissions, which in addition to methane include volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Once emission rates are measured or estimated, repairs can be conducted, reducing emissions by 90% or more. The economic merits of a LDAR program depend on the amount and value of the gas otherwise leaked and the costs of the LDAR program, comprising both survey and repair costs.

The analysis presented is based on data from 4,293 surveys of oil and gas facilities in the USA and Canada. These surveys identified 58,421 components, which were either leaking or venting gas; leaks were detected from 39,505 components. A database was created with information on gas emission rates, repair costs, and repair lifetime for each emission source, in addition to average survey costs. This database allows calculation of the costs and benefits of LDAR programs with various designs, which is the main product of this work. In addition to repairs of leaks from static components, the economics and mitigation potential of addressing excess reciprocating compressor rod packing emissions are also examined in this study and the results are briefly presented in this report.

The study, commissioned by CATF, was designed, carried out, and written by Carbon Limits, a Norwegian consulting company with long standing experience in climate change policies and emission reduction project identification and development. It works in close collaboration with industries, government, and public bodies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly in the oil and gas sector.

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