September 2022, Vol. 249, No. 9


Reducing Carbon Footprints at Oil, Gas Infrastructures

By Peter Bortolin and Nathan Ashcroft, Stantec  

(P&GJ) — The energy and resources industry is undergoing one of the most significant shifts in generations. This transition is toward green energy – or renewable energy created from natural resources – that does not release greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during production.

Experts from every industry are searching for ways to reduce emissions and become more sustainable. The same is true with the oil and gas sector, and it has our clients asking, “What can we do now to reduce the carbon footprint of our facilities and pipeline infrastructure?” After all, a net-zero future cannot be built overnight. We will rely on our oil and gas infrastructure for years to come.  

One of the most fundamental ways to reduce the carbon footprint of an oil and gas facility is to eliminate fugitive and unnecessary emissions. Fugitive emissions are emissions that are lost because of inefficient infrastructure.  

Effective maintenance planning to checking valves, seals, gauges and hoses can reduce emissions. The best part of reducing the release of fugitive emissions is that if they are captured, they can be redirected to supplement the energy stream at the facility – and even for the nearby power grid.  

Other unnecessary GHG emissions include emissions stemming from gas-actuated valves. By retrofitting the facility with electric-actuated valves, operators can help reduce the carbon footprint one flip-of-the-switch at a time.  

Carbon Capture   

A key method for reducing GHG emissions is preventing those emissions from being released in the first place. Carbon capture and storage technologies, or carbon capture and sequestration, is the process of capturing waste carbon dioxide (CO2), transporting it to a storage site and depositing it where it will not enter the atmosphere. These technologies can support emissions reduction.  

Understanding where to capture carbon in each process is critical. Only then can one begin working out which technology to use. However, perhaps most importantly, determining where the carbon will go is the most challenging aspect. Most carbon capture projects today either compress the CO2 and sequester it deep underground or use it to enhance oil recovery. More options should become available as the technology evolves.

High-resolution images capture vegetation growing above and around buried pipeline infrastructure daily.

Another way to reduce the carbon footprint of oil and gas infrastructure is to integrate renewable energy wherever possible. Whether implementing wind power, solar power or blending hydrogen with fuels, there are ways to cut back on the overall emissions at facilities.   

Such actions include using energy from wind or solar units to supplement power for the electric actuation of valves, gauges and more. Operators should use clean, renewable energy as much as possible.  

Use of Biogas  

Biogas is the mixture of gases produced when organic matter breaks down in the absence of oxygen, or anaerobically, and primarily consists of methane and CO2. Biogas can be renewably produced from raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste or food waste.   

After it has been treated, biogas can be used to power facilities, operations and even vehicles! Not only does biogas provide renewable energy, but the production of it also reduces the amount of physical waste at landfills.  

Another renewable way that oil and gas operators can reduce emissions is by using geothermal energy. Geothermal energy is heat derived within the sub-surface of the earth. Water and steam carry the geothermal energy to the Earth’s surface for our use.   

Depending on its characteristics, operators can use this geothermal energy for heating and cooling purposes. Better yet, it can be harnessed to generate clean electricity!  

Blending Hydrogen   

One of the most interesting trends lately is the introduction of hydrogen into the energy infrastructure.   

This development is of great import to the oil and gas industry because hydrogen can be blended with oil and natural gas to reduce the GHG emissions associated with burning those fuels. Along with carbon capture technologies, emissions can be prevented from being released into the atmosphere and redirected for other purposes.  

There are still setbacks to hydrogen, such as cost, storage capabilities and regulations. The careful adoption of it within present oil and gas infrastructure, however, will help the industry reduce its carbon footprint while striving to achieve green energy solutions.  


As we continue our march toward a green energy future, we need to find ways to make our existing energy infrastructure cleaner and more sustainable. The world still needs oil and gas infrastructure, and it will continue to be needed for decades to come. Now is the time to start figuring out how we can bridge the energy transition more effectively and what role we will play.  

There are several ways that oil and gas operators can reduce the carbon footprint of the facilities and pipeline infrastructure. As we focus on the net-zero targets, these methods will be used more frequently.

Authors: Peter Bortolin leads Stantec’s energy work in Ontario and Quebec, Canada. As a project manager, engineer and business developer, he revitalizes aging assets and supports renewables such as biogas.  

Nathan Ashcroft is a strategic business developer, who is involved in expanding the company’s geographical business, as well as researching new applications of existing products like bitumen.

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