Enhancing environmental sustainability in the oil and gas industry: the REE concept (RI 2023)

The oil and gas industry stands at a crossroads, facing the urgent need for sustainable practices amid global environmental concerns. Hoerbiger, a global leader in reciprocating compressor technology, brings a unique perspective to the forefront, with a focus on environmental sustainability.

Nikolaus Lubega and David Malik

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Article Summary

All major processes in refineries rely on reciprocating compressors, which are critical elements of many production units. They are also big machines that either contribute directly or indirectly to the plant’s power-related CO₂ emissions, depending on whether electricity is generated on-site or imported.

Often, inefficient capacity control systems lead to thousands of tons of CO₂eq unnecessarily emitted or the need to send excess process gas to the flare on a regular basis. Furthermore, every unplanned compressor outage that requires the cylinders to be opened results in a blowdown of compressors, contributing to CO₂eq emitted. Every hour a compressor is in operation, fugitive emissions occur, and even a stopped compressor has standby leakages causing CO₂eq emissions. While a lot of these CO₂eq emissions are avoidable, there is often a lack in visibility of the improvement potentials.

One of the key emitters of CO₂ in a refinery are the reciprocating compressors. For reference, the power consumption of the worldwide reciprocating compressor population emits the same amount of CO₂eq as the whole of The Netherlands. Hence, there is huge potential to avoid CO₂ emissions either through alternatives, sustainable power sources, efficiency improvements, or more reliable operation.

Advanced multi-compressor efficiency and reliability simulation allow us to efficiently zoom out and benchmark each compressor’s performance – including carbon emissions – within thousands of reciprocating compressors in many different processes worldwide. It showcases how to efficiently zoom in and drill down in detail on identified targets to quantify emissions. It also shows how to outline specific technically as well as commercially feasible and proven solu­tions that reduce the carbon footprint of the entire reciprocating compressor fleet and its impact on the plant.

Introducing the REE Concept
At the heart of Hoerbiger’s approach lies the REE (Reliability, Efficiency, Environmental soundness) concept. Unlike traditional assessments that target individual components, REE considers the complex interactions of one or more compressors within plant processes. This approach aligns with the industry’s growing emphasis on comprehensive site and multi-site optimisation. Over a decade of experience in REE activities has enabled Hoerbiger to develop a sophisticated framework that not only evaluates compressor performance but also sets the same in perspective to identify hidden potentials for improvement.

The REE Index: A Benchmark for Excellence
Central to the REE concept is the REE Index, an innovative  standardised measure of compressor performance (see Figure 1). This index ranges from 0–10, which offers a comprehensive evaluation of reliability, efficiency, and environmental impact. By comparing compressors to industry benchmarks, Hoerbiger offers a clear picture of each machine’s standing. The REE Index acts as a strategic guide, identifying both challenges and opportunities for enhancement.

Three Steps to Enhanced Plant Performance
Hoerbiger’s approach to optimisation unfolds in three strategic steps (see Figure 2):

1 Creating a fleet overview: A comprehensive assessment of the compressor fleet’s performance reveals gaps and potential. By benchmarking each machine against industry standards, Hoerbiger identifies areas for improvement.

2 Analysing and prioritising: Collabor-atively with operators, a Fleet Development Plan is crafted. This plan outlines improvement projects with a focus on reliability, efficiency, and environmental soundness. Detailed calculations and business cases aid decision-making.

3 Implementing solutions: REE Audits, conducted by experienced experts, pave the way for tangible improvements. Concrete solutions are developed, aligned with maintenance schedules, and documented in Compressor Development Plans.

One interface to view your fleet’s performance and improvement potential
Hoerbiger’s proprietary Fleet Performance Platform determines key performance parameters and benchmarks these against the industry’s best performer (see Figure 3). The analysis examines each compressor of a single- or multi-compressor unit individually and ranks the reciprocating compressor fleet. This way, we can provide you with a bird’s eye view and uncover hidden potential.

Empowering Sustainable Decisions
The intersection of technology and sustainability forms the core of Hoerbiger’s contributions. Through data-driven insights, the company empowers operators to make informed decisions that align with decarbonisation goals. By balancing conflicting priorities, Hoerbiger bridges the gap between operational needs and environmental responsibility.

Optimising with the Fleet Performance Platform
Hoerbiger’s proprietary Fleet Performance Platform is the cornerstone of its strategy. This platform provides a bird’s eye view of the entire fleet, enabling the identification of critical compressors. Its Zoom-In Mode investigates deeper, analysing DCS trends for detailed insights. By harmonising both modes, Hoerbiger crafts strategies that optimise performance and reduce operational expenditures.

A Roadmap to Sustainability
As the refining industry navigates a rapidly evolving landscape, the need for sustainable practices grows paramount. Hoerbiger’s approach offers a comprehensive roadmap towards a more environmentally responsible future (see Figure 4). By optimising the compressor’s maintenance and operating strategies, the company empowers plants to balance operational efficiency with reduced carbon footprints. The advancement of cutting-edge technologies helps prevent vented and fugitive emissions, and diminish energy-related emissions, establishing novel industry benchmarks.

Hoerbiger’s participation in Refining India 2023 conference marks a significant milestone in the journey toward sustainable practices in the oil industry. The REE concept, combined with innovative digital tools, forms the bedrock of the company’s mission. As the industry grapples with the challenges of the present, Hoerbiger sets new standards in sustainability, offering pragmatic solutions that drive both profitability and environmental responsibility.

This short article originally appeared in the 2023Refining India Newspaper, which you can VIEW HERE

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