Simulation technology is the key to reducing carbon footprint

Simulation technology is the key to reducing carbon footprint

September 5, 2023
Time to read: 8 minutes
Jan Gerhard Norstrøm

Advancements in simulation technology offer cost-effective solutions to lower carbon footprint in oil and gas development and production

The energy sector holds the key to unlocking the global climate challenge.

It is responsible for around three-quarters of greenhouse gas emissions, which puts it in pole position to help avert the catastrophic effects of climate change. The UN’s Global Roadmap to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 outlines what needs to be done in the energy sector to enable the transition. It also warns of the major risks if we stumble along the path and fall behind.

Much is being done in the industry, with steps in the right direction. But, as we look ahead 2023 and beyond, there is still much to achieve globally if we are to limit the rise in global temperatures to 1.5°C. By embracing simulation technology, the oil and gas industry can reduce its carbon footprint and play a key role in mitigating the negative impact of its operations on the environment and promoting sustainability.

However, due to the global nature of the industry, this is not as straightforward as we would like.

Simulate to save the planet

In a previous blog post, I mentioned the increased number of discussions about carbon capture and storage (CCS) at the Offshore North Sea (ONS-2022) exhibition compared to the previous ONS in 2018. This was positive. Since then, our team has attended several energy conferences from Rio De Janeiro, Kuala Lumpur, Houston, Trondheim and Nice and observed the differences in energy consumption, carbon footprint, and transition from oil and gas production from one continent to another.

Brazil, for instance, needs to both inject anthropogenic CO2 and reinject CO2 associated with pre-salt oil in-order to reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere and mitigate its impact on the environment. With the ongoing political situation in Russia, Brazil may become a more prominent oil supplier globally. So, it is important to observe and learn lessons from how they reduce their carbon footprint, whether through offshore drilling, better refining techniques, increased use of biofuels or, crucially, adopting CCS.

At the recent SPE International conference in Brazil last year I saw a fascinating presentation on flow assurance by TotalEnergies in the face of energy and environmental challenges. The presentation showed how simulation technology can reduce carbon footprint - as well as CapEx - for multiphase flow pipelines across various oil and gas projects.

Simply, by using simulations, engineers across the globe can evaluate the performance of new technologies and identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, and minimise emissions. Using Kongsberg Digital’s LedaFlow, a software-based solution, organisations can optimise field design and operation. They can simulate pipeline transportation and make predictions on various design solutions, understand production challenges, and mitigate risk before they actually develop the field and put it into production. For instance, use of anti-agglomerates (AA) instead of MEG is more cost effective as you may remove the MEG pipeline and the regeneration unit, however the conditions for when AA is working is normally narrower compared to what it would be for MEG. Hence, you need to assess the risks carefully. So, depending on field properties like e.g. water cut and condensate to gas ratio one may need to look into flow assurance issues related hydrodynamic turndown, subsea pigging as well as flow conditions with hydrate slurries and waxy condensates. Accurate simulator technology to simulate and assess the risk is therefore important in order to push the design, make it more cost efficient and save the environment.

From examples we have seen, simulations can lead to significant cost savings, potentially up to 14% of CapEx equivalent to 360kT of CO2. This is in addition to savings from transitioning from a floater installation to a standard subsea tieback development. Other examples show a staggering potential saving of $475m and CO2 reductions of 120kT by removing insulation on an 8" 140km pipeline. You need accurate simulator technology to take the steps and check the risk before making such decisions because you go from a design that is safer to one that may seem riskier. However, it’s up to excellence in simulator technology to support a process making what seems like the risky choice safe.

The industry needs both to take down consumption of materials and energy as well as CCS technology to meet its netzero ambitions. This is why the industry must rapidly embrace simulation technology and CCS.

Embracing simulation accuracy

Reaching netzero by energy companies is not achievable without reductions in demand of materials like for example steel and cement. And only if combined with adoption off CCS NetZero is achievable.

Steel production, for example, is one of the largest industrial sources of greenhouse gas emissions. It contributes 11% of global CO2 emissions, equivalent to 1.9 billion tons of steel and around 3.6 billion tons of CO2. This has doubled since 2009, when steel production contributed ‘only’ 4%-5%. Why is this important? Because steel production is used extensively in energy production, including oil and gas and even renewable energy sources, such as wind farms and/or solar panels. We always need to work smart and reduce the demand.

If you can reduce the need for steel in oil and gas production and develop CCS technology, it will fundamentally reduce the carbon footprint from steel production. Cement production also contributes to CO2 emissions, making up 7% of total emissions.

The carbon footprint needs to be reduced, and we have no time to waste. Addressing largescale industries globally through energy efficiency and the adoption of CCS via accurate simulation technology can make an enormous and immediate impact.

Kongsberg Digital’s LedaFlow product has a user group meeting for its users where we will share latest improvements in simulation accuracy in Stavanger the 21 September 2023. You are welcome to join us in Houston where the topics on netzero i.e. reductions of the CO2 footprint and CCS are topics in the Tomorrow Show October 23 – 25 Houston.

About the author

Simulation technology is the key to reducing carbon footprint

Jan Gerhard Norstrøm

Managing Director, The LedaFlowTechnologies Joint Venture

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