The COP26 global climate summit earlier this month in Glasgow, Scotland, put the spotlight on the urgency to act on climate change. President Joe Biden promised his administration would heavily regulate methane, and for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency is poised to limit the methane coming from existing oil and gas wells in the United States instead of only new wells. Regardless of how one views the policy coming out of D.C., the goal of net-zero carbon emissions is one that, as parents, children and humans, we all should aspire to.
As the industry wrestles with the uncertainty of a changing landscape, regulators and oil and gas processors need to reach a consensus on where they are before moving toward a common goal. If a company commits to net-zero carbon emissions by 2035, how does it accurately measure its footprint in order to deliver and show tangible progress along the way? How reliable is the data we are collecting, analyzing and acting upon? Oil and gas producers, and the regulators who oversee them, face increasing market pressure of both public opinion and tightening regulation around the world. The key to meeting this enormous challenge is creative problem-solving. Moreover, to be successful, a scalable approach must be integrated into our daily operations, not a spurious add-on.
Avanade and other leaders are introducing the concept of a Carbon Twin to help the oil and gas industry incorporate the emission net-zero journey into daily operations by helping both optimize operational emissions and prevent incidental emissions. Building on digital twin approaches and leveraging ongoing initiatives to optimize operations, a carbon twin allows you to model the emissions footprint of facilities and entire value chains.
The current methods of measuring for compliance do not translate directly into curbing carbon emissions because a facility generally bases its scoring on just two or three days of data per year, relying on a variety of discrete measurement tools to capture that data. The actual level of emissions can vary significantly due to variances in equipment load, operating profiles or even weather, rendering those readings inadequate measures of the effectiveness of carbon-footprint-reduction efforts. Moreover, measuring only tells us how we are doing at that very moment; it does not allow us to understand how certain actions and decisions might impact our carbon footprint.
A carbon twin, on the other hand, provides a better near-term option for improving estimate quality and forecasting the impact of operations decisions on the carbon footprint. It does so by modeling emissions of individual equipment or entire facilities based on easy to obtain operational telemetries such as temperatures, pressures, flow rates and more. Those can be used as proxies for the carbon equivalent emissions of a facility, much like we can use a magnetic field as a proxy for the current flowing through a conductor (albeit perhaps not quite as deterministic).
To create a carbon twin, we start by developing a carbon taxonomy of our value chain, identifying and classifying potential emitters. The carbon equivalent emitted from each emitter, in conjunction with operational telemetry ranging through various operating profiles would be measured in a controlled environment. Unlike in the field, a controlled environment allows us to easily measure the actual emissions associated with an operating profile, enabling us to develop physics-based and heuristic models for the equipment. Combined, these models constitute the carbon twin, which can now accurately estimate emissions for the facility deployed in the field using existing operating telemetry without expensive retrofits for real-time emissions measurement.
The oil and gas industry can’t control the impending policy changes, but it can control how to react and successfully meet the environmental challenges of the future and ensure that we leave the world a great place for future generations. Carbon Twin technology is an enabler for the industry on our journey to not only remain viable and profitable but to contribute significantly to the global effort of combating climate change.
About the author: Thor is leading Avanade’s Innovation Lab and Experience Center in Houston and is responsible for driving innovation internally as well as with Avanade’s clients. Thor has developed innovative solutions and strategies for clients in Oil and Gas, Utilities, Retail, Manufacturing and Consulting.
Thor currently focuses on leveraging IoT, Digital Twinning, CH4 Emissions Detection and Management and Multi-party Systems to create innovative business solutions.
He holds a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Dresden in Germany and has conducted research as a visiting scientist at the Carnegie Mellon University Center for Machine Translation.