Reducing emissions from refining - should I focus on my valves or my positioners?

The global climate is warming up and countries and individual companies are seeking ways to reduce their emissions to slow down climate change. Looking at oil refineries, one may wonder from where their own emissions emerge.

Many valve emission presentations refer to a certain EPA study from the 1980s. Studies from this time show that valves are the main source of fugitive emissions from a refinery, up to 60-80%. This would imply that emission reduction should start from valves, but is this still the status of fugitive emissions today? No, it’s not.  

While calculating the valve fugitive emissions of a whole oil refinery, one can learn from the website of the EPA that an oil refinery with an annual production capacity of around 500 000 barrels per day will emit around 78 million metric tons of CO2e annually. From a valve user and manufacturer point of view, one interesting question worth asking is, “How much of the refinery emissions come from valves?”

Valves with modern ISO 15848 fugitive emission certificates emit very little. If a refinery has ISO-certified valves and they are properly maintained, fugitive emissions from valves can represent as little as 0.0000004% of the total refinery emissions. That is, the traditional 60% is really, really far from today’s number! If this is the case, what can I do to reduce my emissions?

In addition to direct (scope 1) emissions, an automated valve package containing a valve, an actuator, and a positioner contributing to refinery emissions indirectly, through scope 2 emissions. That is, actuators and positioners consume compressed air. Production of the compressed air will cause emissions. These emissions can be converted to CO2e along with the fugitive emissions.

This was an observation made in the Fugitive Emissions webinar: my positioners may be emitting more than my valves. If you want to learn more, please check out the webinar recording titled Reducing fugitive emissions from refining: how much do valves really contribute and what is their reduction potential?