Calgary-based Kathairos Solutions is about to start bringing the first of 1,000 methane elimination systems online at remote well sites across Alberta, which it states will remove an estimated 141,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) emissions annually.
Kelly Doody, Kathairos' chief marketing officer, noted a vast number of wells across North America power their on-site devices with methane gas and then vent it generally uncombusted, like in pneumatic devices to prevent pipes from freezing in winter.
"Because methane is such a potent greenhouse gas," she said, "this is obviously the problem that needs to be curbed right away. Methane is a low-hanging fruit in the net-zero journey and in the decarbonization efforts of most producers."
The adoption of Kathairos' methane elimination systems is a solution the oil and gas industry "can really get behind," she added.
News of the deployment, which will begin in March, was coupled with an announcement the company has received $3.9 million in funding from Prairies Economic Development Canada.
Over 100,000 sites routinely release millions of tonnes of CO2e each year in Alberta alone. According to the International Energy Agency, the global energy sector was responsible for almost 135 million tonnes of methane emissions in 2022.
Typically, methane is used to inject methanol into the pipes in the winter to prevent water and gas lines from freezing. Forty per cent of vented methane in oil fields comes from these pneumatic devices.
Kathairos’ system utilizes liquid nitrogen from an on-site storage tank to power remote, non-electrified oil and gas well-site devices, pumps and valves. The company calculated the emissions reductions based on the quantity of methane being swapped for nitrogen.
The deployment of the 1,000 units will begin with a focused effort around the Grande Prairie, Fox Creek and Rimbey regions. These areas are home to more than 50,000 well sites currently venting methane.
Doody states the deployments will be complete by the end of December.
“We think we may have an even higher number than that this year. To be honest, it just what's happening right now is that we've trialed our solution with a number of producers,” she explained.
“Because it's such a simple and seamless solution, the moment they turn it on, it works. They don't need months and months to see if, in fact, it does what we say it will do. So they very quickly now are moving into commercial deployments."
In 2020, the Canadian government reaffirmed its commitment to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 per cent (from a 2012 baseline) by 2025. That same year, Alberta will require 495,000 tonnes per year in methane reductions.
Kathairos’ website states by that time, this process could contribute 41,920 tonnes per year in emissions reductions – or 8.4 per cent of the provincial goal.
Kathairos’ methane elimination system
The manufacturing process for a system is four to six weeks. Kathairos has an agreement with Chart Industries Inc., which produces cryogenic tank solutions, and offers the capacity to build hundreds of the systems each month.
At the site, the nitrogen system can be installed and operational within a day, co-founder and CEO Dick Brown had previously told SustainableBiz.
The company markets liquid nitrogen tanks in six sizes, depending on the needs of the site.
Once installed, they can remain operational for the lifetime of the well – 10 years or more. In addition to reducing methane emissions, the technology can also be used to generate carbon credits.
According to a release, the cost of implementing Kathairos’ systems for the average Alberta producer is less than the actual carbon offsets generated. Doody states the smallest unit can be approximately $3,000 per year while the largest can cost between $12,000 to $13,000 annually.
In March 2022, Kathairos received $1.58 million from the Clean Resource Innovation Network for a two-year pilot project expected to eliminate methane venting from 100 wells at 60 remote Northern Alberta locations.
The automated pilot project is forecast to eliminate 37,440 tonnes of CO2e – or 187,200 tonnes of CO2e over the life of the wells.
“Any one location, it’s not that big a deal,” Brown told SustainableBiz at the time. “But it certainly is when you consider the 120,000 locations from a cumulative basis across Western Canada.”
The company states there is potential to eliminate emissions from over 400,000 remote well sites across Canada and the U.S. Doody told SustainableBiz Kathairos is active in seven of 15 U.S. basins.
“It's interesting to us . . . in Alberta, where the company is founded to see that the adoption has been a little bit slower, and we would have thought it'd be the other way around,” Doody said.
“There's no carbon offset incentive market here and we're taking orders by the hundreds here in the U.S., both down south in the Permian Basin where I am today (and) up in the Marcellus Basin in northeast U.S., Pennsylvania, West Virginia where I was last week, so it's just remarkable.”