Characterization of methane emissions from five cold heavy oil production with sands (CHOPS) facilities

Cold heavy oil production with sands (CHOPS) is a common oil extraction method in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan that can result in significant methane emissions due to annular venting. Little is known about the magnitude of these emissions, nor their contributions to the regional methane budget. Here the authors present the results of field measurements of methane emissions from CHOPS wells and compare them with self-reported venting rates. The tracer ratio method was used not only to analyze total site emissions but at one site it was also used to locate primary emission sources and quantify their contributions to the facility-wide emission rate, revealing the annular vent to be a dominant source. Emissions measured from five different CHOPS sites in Alberta showed large discrepancies between the measured and reported rates, with emissions being mainly underreported. These methane emission rates are placed in the context of current reporting procedures and the role that gas-oil ratio (GOR) measurements play in vented volume estimates. In addition to methane, emissions of higher hydrocarbons were also measured; a chemical “fingerprint” associated with CHOPS wells in this region reveals very low emission ratios of ethane, propane, and aromatics versus methane. The results of this study may inform future studies of CHOPS sites and aid in developing policy to mitigate regional methane emissions. Implications: Methane measurements from cold heavy oil production with sand (CHOPS) sites identify annular venting to be a potentially major source of emissions at these facilities. The measured emission rates are generally larger than reported by operators, with uncertainty in the gas-oil ratio (GOR) possibly playing a large role in this discrepancy. These results have potential policy implications for reducing methane emissions in Alberta in order to achieve the Canadian government’s goal of reducing methane emissions by 40–45% below 2012 levels within 8 yr.

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    • © 2018 Joseph R. Roscioli, Scott C. Herndon, Tara I. Yacovitch, W. Berk Knighton, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Matthew R. Johnson, and David R. Tyner. Abstract reprinted with permission of Taylor & Francis.
  • Authors:
    • Roscioli, Joseph R
    • Herndon, Scott C
    • Yacovitch, Tara I
    • Knighton, W Berk
    • Zavala-Araiza, Daniel
    • Johnson, Matthew R
    • Tyner, David R
  • Publication Date: 2018-7


  • English

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  • Accession Number: 01674017
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jun 21 2018 3:01PM