What is “Combustion Efficiency?”
By: Casey Beeler, Vice President, IES, LLC.

In terms of oil field combustion equipment, combustion efficiency can mean a variety of things. In the world of natural draft combustors, the term usually refers to how “efficiently” the combustion device removes a target compound in a waste gas feed. Those target compounds, typically hydrocarbons, can range from low BTU (BTU/ft3), predominantly methane mixtures, to high, 3500 BTU or greater gas containing rich mixes of methane through C6+’s (Hexanes and larger hydrocarbons). The seemingly simple and often overlooked waste gas combustor is a workhorse in the field, required to meet the most complex and strictest regulated specifications.

“Remove” is really a misnomer. In 100% efficient combustion reaction (typically known as: Ideal, Theoretic, or Stoichiometric Combustion), the combustor should convert all of target contaminant hydrocarbon, say, methane (CH4) into Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Water (H2O) and Nitrogen gas (N2) plus heat – nothing else, nothing more.

This works very well in the theoretic world, but as any experienced hand will tell you, things are usually far from the ideal in the oil patch. Long chain hydrocarbons that should be liquid; but somehow stayed in a vapor state, exotic cyclic and double- or triple-bonded hydrocarbons, sulfur containing compounds, higher than expected oxygen levels, and entrained liquids are all (just to name a very few) situations that can influence how efficiently your combustor is combusting. These types of situations only take into consideration the feed gas stream; external factors can also turn a combustion device from an extremely efficient piece of equipment, into a soot-laden, smoke-belching, fine-inducing nightmare faster than you can say “what inspector?”

Most oil field combustors, also known as enclosed ground flares – are natural draft stacks. This means that the air required for an efficient combustion reaction is drawn into or “induced” into the stack through air intake ports at the bottom of the combustor. A pressure differential is created in the stack by the temperature difference between the base of the stack and the top of the stack creating this air flow. Clogged flame cells, air pressure inversions at the top of the stack due to high winds and flame cooling can cause a lack of induced air, which will lead to a rich combustion, a condition that can lead to smoke or significant noise from detonation.

Obviously, a maintenance program is extremely important to ensure that your combustors remain efficient. Choosing a combustion manufacturer who stands behind their equipment, providing warranty, service and even maintenance agreements is a good step in the right direction. Probably more importantly, choosing the right vendor involves assessing whether a manufacturer has performed and passed mandated state and federal testing guidelines.

Each state air quality agency require combustors meet specific destruction efficiencies and regulate the amount of emissions opacity or smoke a combustor can have in a given period of time. These rules are designed to be difficult in an attempt to guarantee that a combustor will operate efficiently under field conditions. Federally mandated EPA standards are separate, but very stringent guidelines that a combustor manufacturer must prove its products can pass. If a combustor is placed in the field and it hasn’t met EPA NSPS (Standards of Performance for New Stationary Sources), 40 CFR 60 Subpart OOOO, known as Quad O, the purchaser is responsible for a monitoring and testing schedule as described in the regulation, which can be an undue and costly burden.

Quad O can be a very expensive and difficult test to pass and often takes multiple days of testing to complete. It is a much more detailed testing protocol that a straight forward DRE test that shows a snapshot of a combustors operating efficiency. Manufacturers may try to bypass this requirement; however, the regulation is enforced nationwide by the EPA and, depending on the location, may be a state mandated requirement for permitting a wellsite. Either way, it is not a regulation that can be ignored by the manufacturer or producer. A combustor manufacturer that has performed and successfully passed Quad O testing is one that has demonstrated that its equipment meets or exceeds the strictest emissions standards required by law.

So, what are the takeaways? Combustion efficiency seems like a simple concept, but in reality, combustion of waste gas on a wellsite can entail very complex reactions, which are extremely sensitive to inputs. A regular maintenance program and a manufacturing partner willing to stand behind its products and have an established warranty and service agreements. Producers require combustion equipment that is engineered to the strictest specifications and can meet complex and ever changing inlet gas compositions, which have also been proven to meet stringent state and federal testing requirements. This is the most important requirement, and is why I left it as a parting thought: combustion equipment must be safe and follow best practices. Equipment that takes into consideration the human aspect and keeps operators safe and provides for easy field maintenance through good design should be at the top of any purchasing decision.

 

MPA-MARK-MATHIS

The 2016 annual meeting of the Montana Petroleum Association (MPA) will take place in Billings August 30th and 31st at the DoubleTree Hotel, formerly the Crowne Plaza.

Event highlights include special guest, Congressman Ryan Zinke to speak Tuesday night at Pryor Creek Golf Course during the MPA barbeque. Recent past speakers include former Lt. Governor Angela McLean and Attorney General Tim Fox.

On Wednesday, the morning will commence at the DoubleTree with breakfast speaker Paul Babb of Butte, Community Relations Manager for NorthWestern Energy. Babb is a current member of the REAL Montana Program, a public-private partnership through the MSU Extension office, engaged in educating leaders of Montana on agriculture and natural resource development industries and issues. His presentation will be focused on the importance of “Telling the Story of Our Employees”.

The general meeting of MPA will follow, ahead of three panels which will address subjects including landowner relations, community engagement, methane rules, federal proposals, and collaboration with local government.

mpa_alan-olson“This year, we wanted to tailor our meeting to address Montana-specific issues that appeal to both industry and the general public,” said Alan Olson, Executive Director of MPA. “We’re hosting a good mix of industry experts and the regulators we work with on each of our panels.” (Olson, pictured right with MPA President, Greg Brown, CHS Refinery).

Panelists include Jack King of Billings, longtime landman and former commissioner with the Board of Oil and Gas Conservation; Steve Durrett, current BOGC member and President of August Energy Partners; recent past president of the Montana Association of Professional Landmen, Nicole Bement of Sidney, now with XTO. Each panelist will address how industry can balance public concerns with oil and gas operations by improving communication.

On the Community Engagement panel, speakers will discuss how oil and gas businesses are preparing the next generation of industry leaders, and making lasting investments in the community. Panelists will be Dan Carter, Public and Government Affairs Manager at ExxonMobil; Danette Welsh, Government Affairs Manager at ONEOK, representing the midstream; and Shawna Bonini, Montana Tech grad and past president with the Society of Petroleum Engineers, and former Drilling Engineer for Chevron, and SM Energy in Billings.

A final panel on industry topics will address issues facing the oil and gas sector at the state and federal level, including hotly contested methane rules. Speakers include Tony Lucero, Lead of Regulatory Programs at Enerplus Resources; Karl Christians, Conservation District Specialist, DNRC; and Brian Fakharzadeh, VP of Development and Operations at Western Energy Alliance.

Keynote speaker of this year’s Petroleum Industry Appreciation Day luncheon will be author and filmmaker, Mark Mathis. Mathis has spent most of his career challenging widely accepted ideas that are he describes as “simply untrue”. Mathis’s resume includes a decade as a TV news anchor and reporter, talk radio host, media trainer, founder of Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy, speaker and documentary film producer/director.

In his film, spOILed, Mathis highlighted the public’s ignorance of the central role oil plays in our lives. Mark’s new film, Fractured, exposes how language is used to dangerously deceive us about the most essential component to the function of the modern world—energy.

Registration is available online at montanapetroleum.org, and the public is invited to attend. Press requests and additional questions can be directed to Jessica Sena, 590-8675.

The recent “discovery” of the giant Bakken oil field, described as the “largest continuous oil accumulation ever assessed by the US Geological Survey,” bodes fundamental changes for western North Dakota and eastern Montana. Lots of people are coming! Western North Dakota now faces a daunting challenge: building infrastructure that supports a new way of life and culture.

Just ask Don Nickell, president and COO of Nakota Development, LLC. The morning Nakota opened their two Value Place extended-stay hotels in Williston in September 2012, “we had people sitting in their cars in the parking lot, waiting for us to open the doors,” said Nickell.

Since then, Williston Value Place hotels have achieved enviable occupancy rates (>95 percent in August). They have also exceeded their competitors’ occupancy % for the past four months, which is a significant achievement given they have 248 rooms versus their competitor’s properties which average only 90-100 rooms.

Nickell is confident more customers are waiting. He’s in good company. Lynn Helms, director of North Dakota’s Department of Mineral Resources, told an audience at the 2012 North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties that western North Dakota can expect about 250,000 additional people settling west of Highway 83 to help produce oil and natural gas.

It’s more than just about oil and gas, however.  Housing and lodging are of particular concern. Mike Anderson, director of the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency expects population growth to continue in the state for at least the next 15 to 20 years.

While many thousands of men are today living in temporary man camps, a gaping supply hole remains for those seeking lodging for the many two-to-four-month assignments typical in the Bakken and other shale oil regions.  There are thousands of geologists, landsmen, technicians, engineers, field and construction workers and service personnel in need of housing and lodging.

Nakota Development is already two steps ahead in the game; they acquired the Value Place franchise territory rights for North Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.  They promptly built two hotels in Williston and recently completed a third in July in Dickinson.  Nakota has also purchased, or acquired options on additional land for future construction. Their construction of another Value Place recently began in Watford City and is expected to open in spring of 2014.

The master plan, according to Nakota CEO Art Cahoon, is to invest an estimated $200 million over the next five years in the development of twenty new extended stay hotels in the Bakken and other developing US shale oil regions. Nakota’s willingness to take the early equity risks and invest millions of their own money to build their first two hotels and complete them on schedule brought Nakota a rare commodity in the Bakken: CREDIBILITY.

Even today, with credit availability increasing, Nakota continues to invest significant equity in each of its hotels.  Despite the Bakken’s significant construction and operating challenges, including the scarcity of materials and high labor costs, Nakota has established itself as the gold standard developer and operator in the Bakken. “Current investors, which include all of Nakota’s senior management team, are enjoying very attractive returns on their investment,” said Cahoon.

Click to see Value Place in the Oct/Nov Issue of the Bakken Oil Business Journal.

Value Place is the largest economy extended stay franchise in America. The Value Place Brand comes from the management team that created and developed lodging brands such as Residence Inn (now owned by Marriott), Summerfield Suites (Hyatt) and Candlewood Suites (Intercontinental). In 2011, Value Place was recognized again as a Top 50 Franchise by the Franchise Business Review’s 2011 Franchisee Satisfaction Awards.  Value Place was also recognized in USA Today in 2010 as a recession-proof business.

(HELENA) The State of Montana will offer detailed training on a range of topics that includes air quality and discharge permitting, compliance requirements, and best business practices for contractors, opencut mining, materials processors, and the oil and gas industry.

The trainings will be in Sidney on October 1 – 3 at the Mondak Heritage Center, 120 3rd Ave SE,  and will be conducted by representatives of the Departments of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Transportation (MDT). The trainings are free of charge and open to qualified registrants.

The three-day series is designed specifically to address practices surrounding opencut mining and associated development and growth seen in recent years throughout northeastern Montana.

“This training series provides valuable information that will save owner-operators and contractors time and money as they grow with the region,” said Darrick Turner, manager of DEQ’s Small Business Environmental Assistance Program. “Attendees will come away with a better understanding of the state’s environmental regulations and the permitting processes.”

Topics will include air quality and discharge permitting, and inspections. A full day is devoted to siting and compliance requirements and permitting for opencut operations. Enforcement and transportation issues will also be addressed.

Registration is available by calling 800-433-8773 or by emailing Darrick Turner at: dturner2@mt.gov.