Reducing greenhouse gas emissions of engines in the oil and gas sector for improved sustainability

The oil and gas sector’s environmental footprint differs between its upstream, midstream and downstream activities. For midstream, refineries collectively represent the majority of greenhouse gases (GHGs) emitted in this stage of the processing. On the other hand, many different activities contribute to the sector’s GHG emissions produced during upstream processing. These activities range from onshore production and gathering, to natural gas processing. In fact, a collection of these upstream activities makes up over 10% of GHG emissions of the industrial sector in the U.S.1

Oil & gas sector's emission of greenhouse gases spread across several activities

For the rest of this article, we will focus on upstream oil and gas activities, ways to reduce greenhouse gases emitted from engines, and power systems used across upstream activities. From drilling contractors to oilfield services companies, GHG reduction is getting more traction, driven by a combination of regulatory and societal factors. 

Before we get into more details, consider taking a look at our article summarizing a few of the popular terminology around emissions, including carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide (NOx), carbon zero and carbon neutral

A good starting point in reducing emission contaminants within upstream oil and gas activities is diesel engines. There are many emission regulations focused on reducing diesel engines’ environmental footprint; you can read more about these regulations in our previous article. Let’s start with diesel engines and reducing emissions.

Diesel engines’ emissions are significantly reduced with Tier 4, and equivalent emission regulations

In recent decades, the diesel engines’ emission  contaminants have been significantly reduced through various regulations. For instance, Tier 4 high-horsepower diesel engines used within oil and gas applications emit 80% less particulate matter, and 45% less NOx compared to their Tier 2 counterparts. These reductions also translate into financial gains; check how operators saved over $30 million in fuel, and avoided enough pollutants to fill a 15-mile long train through these Tier 4 solutions.

Most recently, two technologies have been adopted by the industry to achieve these ultra-low emissions with diesel engines: selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR). While there are many technical differences between the two technologies, there is one key distinction between them: SCR is considered a post-combustion solution, while EGR is considered an in-cylinder solution to reduce the amount of contaminants released into the atmosphere. 

Engines with SCR technology often consume less fuel than engines with EGR technology, delivering fuel savings for their owners

Engine manufacturers could reduce combustion temperature to lower the emission of certain contaminants, but reduction of engine temperature often increases fuel consumption. SCR technology reduces NOx emissions external to the engine, without the need for reducing combustion temperature. With the higher combustion temperature allowed by SCR technology comes lower fuel consumption for operators. 

Implementation of SCR technology introduced minimal changes in engine design, helping you leverage the proven technologies you already rely on

Engineers had to introduce minimal architectural changes in existing engines to accommodate the SCR technology, since it is external to the engine. This means the reliability of existing engines proven through millions of hours of operation remain available to you. Plus, since this is a technology external to the combustion chamber, you can upgrade your older engines to meet the newer emission standards often required by exploration and oilfield service companies to contract on different sites.

Newer engines with SCR technology and their older versions have many common parts, making it more efficient and cost effective to maintain

Limited architectural changes from previous engines to the most recent engine platforms mean a higher degree of commonality when it comes to parts. Moreover, technicians who work with these ultra-low emission engines in oil fields can carry forward their familiarization with previous generations of engines.

Beyond diesel, emission reduction is also achieved through gaseous and renewable fuels 

Emission regulations and associated technologies covered above have greatly reduced the emission of contaminants from diesel engines. Meanwhile, there is another path ahead in reducing emissions in a drilling or well site: use of fuels beyond diesel. 

Natural gas offers lower CO2 emissions per unit of energy output among fossil fuels

Gaseous fuels, including natural gas, often reduce the emission of GHGs compared to diesel. For example, natural gas has one of the lowest CO2-to-energy content across all fossil fuels2. Moreover, natural gas engines often have much less Sulfur and NOx emissions than comparable diesel engines. On sites where there is an unlimited supply of natural gas, this also could translate into financial savings in the form of operational expenses (OPEX). 

Renewable fuels, including solar and wind, are the final destination and getting increasing attention within the oil and gas sector. For instance, ExxonMobil and Ørsted have entered into an agreement in 2018 for Exxon to source over 300MW of renewable power from over 100 wind turbines for its operations within the Permian Basin3. These renewable fuels offer carbon zero power for drilling and well sites.

Diversification will be the key word in the next couple of decades when it comes to energy and power solutions within upstream oil and gas operations. It is forecasted that a diverse set of fuels and technologies ranging from diesel and hydrogen, to renewables will co-exist to deliver the reduced environmental footprint in a manner that is financially manageable by oil and gas sector players. 

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References: 
1 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.). GHGRP Petroleum and Natural Gas Systems Sector Industrial Profile [PDF file]. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/
2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.). How much carbon dioxide is produced when different fuels are burned? [Web page]. Retrieved from https://www.epa.gov/
3 Orsted (n.d.). Our onshore wind farms in the U.S. [Web page]. Retrieved from https://us.orsted.com/
 

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Aytek Yuksel - Cummins Inc

Aytek Yuksel

Aytek Yuksel is the Content Marketing Leader for Cummins Inc., with a focus on Power Systems markets. Aytek joined the Company in 2008. Since then, he has worked in several marketing roles and now brings you the learnings from our key markets ranging from industrial to residential markets. Aytek lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and two kids.

Cummins celebrates global remanufacturing operations

Reman Day logo

April 8 is Global Remanufacturing Day, a day to celebrate the people who make our remanufacturing efforts possible at Cummins.

Cummins’ focus on global remanufacturing stands as one of the company’s true differentiators and key sustainability practices worldwide. With over 50 years of remanufacturing experience, Cummins is a world-class leader in this space – and proud of this distinction. 

Every day, we give new life to Cummins products and keep them running for our customers. It’s just one of the many ways we drive dependability at Cummins,” said Rob Enright, Cummins General Manager, New and ReCon® Parts

Cummins’ New and ReCon® Parts (NRP) organization specializes in remanufacturing previously sold, used and worn parts and engines, and has been perfecting the remanufacturing process for decades. NRP has also implemented new tools and processes to aid reman, including additive manufacturing (also called 3D printing), collaborative robots (also known as “cobots,” which are robots intended to physically interact with humans in a shared workspace), laser cleaning, and more. These innovations serve an opportunity to maximize remanufacturing efficiency while also creating a safer workplace for our employees. 

Cummins commitment to sustainability

New Cummins engines are also built with remanufacturing in mind, enabling them to have a long and increasingly fuel-efficient life. Up to 85 percent of an engine can be remanufactured, and Cummins engines are built to be remanufactured multiple times. Remanufacturing also requires far less energy and natural resources to extend life than to build new products. Additionally, remanufacturing helps Cummins deliver on its sustainability promises in the following ways: 

  • 85 percent less energy is required to produce a remanufactured engine 
  • 400 million pounds of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) are avoided 
  • 70 million pounds of material is reclaimed 
  • 67 percent of parts sales of common assemblies, such as turbos, fuel systems, pumps, etc. are remanufactured 

Remanufacturing also plays a key role in meeting Cummins’ Planet 2050 sustainability strategy. While this strategy aims to meet targets by 2050, it also includes incremental 2030 goals. One of the 2030 goals is to create a circular lifecycle plan for every part to use less, use better, and use again. The lifecycle plan for parts considers the reduction of remanufacturing waste, designing high value components to have sufficient life for multiple use cycles, and planning for material recycling – all of which are top initiatives within global remanufacturing. 

Cummins is proud to be a member of Reman Day's sponsoring organization, the Remanufacturing Industries Council (RIC). The RIC is a strategic alliance of businesses and academic institutions that works across industry sectors to support the entire remanufacturing industry through a combination of collaboration, education, advocacy and research. 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

6 ways Cummins is working to save water

Cummins employees work on a grass-seeding project to help a community conserve water in India. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cummins employees work on a grass-seeding project to help a community conserve water in India. This photo was taken prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cummins is working hard to help conserve water across the company.

As the world prepares to mark World Water Day Monday (March 22), here’s a look at just some of what Cummins has been doing:

WATER GOALS KEY PART OF 2020 SUSTAINABILITY PLAN

Cummins has made significant progress in reducing the water it uses, lowering the amount in real terms from 972 million gallons in 2014, when the company’s first sustainability plan was announced, to 895 million gallons in 2019. The company has fixed leaks, changed processes and invested in equipment that uses less water. Cummins has achieved “Water Neutrality” at 16 sites where the company has replaced the water it uses by supporting conservation efforts in local communities or by developing additional sources of water. 

Greenhouse at Rocky Mount Engine Plant
Rocky Mount Engine Plant employees visit the greenhouse that's part of the facility's new water treatment system.

TREATING WATER FOR A SECOND ACT

A new greenhouse at Rocky Mount Engine Plant (RMEP) is part of Cummins’ commitment to reduce water use in the North Carolina (U.S.) community where the plant is located. RMEP has a new system employing multiple technologies including hydroponics – using plants as a filter – to treat millions of gallons of water annually so it can be returned to the facility for non-potable use.  A similar system – minus the greenhouse – is conserving millions of gallons annually at Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant in western New York (U.S.). Both plants expect to cut city water use by about a third – collectively saving more than 25 million gallons annually.

WATER RISK MANAGEMENT WITH SUPPLIERS 

For the past several years, Cummins has worked to identify its top 30 suppliers in water scarce regions. Supply chain managers check to see that water management and return processes are in place at these suppliers and monitor their current and planned activities to conserve water. 

LOW-WATER LANDSCAPING

Distribution Business Headquarters in Indianapolis
The public gardens at Cummins' Distribution Business Headquarters in Indianapolis are designed to retain water for the landscaping rather than discharge rainwater directly to the city sewer system.

Sure, attractive landscaping is nice, but it can use lots of water. It doesn’t have to, not when there are many native low-water plant alternatives that can be used. Water for landscaping accounts for approximately 5% of Cummins’ water footprint. Cummins has planted low-water landscaping at various plants around the world.

SAVING WATER IN UNEXPECTED WAYS

A thorough water balance of a facility can identify leaks and highlight many savings opportunities. Even experienced water management professionals at Cummins can be surprised at the success of certain projects, both easy and difficult to implement. A simple timing valve saved more than 20 million gallons of water annually compared with water hoses left on continuously to clean engine test cells.

People think of the power provided to industrial sites using regenerative test cells, but not as much about the water the technology saves. Engine testing is a hot process, that means water is needed to cool the cells down. Regenerative test cells reduce the heat load on a cooling tower by about 50%; therefore, reducing overall water consumption. 

COMING SOON - NEW GLOBAL WATER  PROGRAM

This summer, Cummins will launch a new global community program to address the urgent issue of water sustainability. The program is an extension of Cummins’ internal efforts to conserve water as part of PLANET 2050, the company’s ambitious environmental sustainability strategy, and the incredible work done by Cummins employees to strengthen communities through sustainable water. A prime example of that is the monsoon resilient Maharashtra project in India, which addresses the devastating impact of unequal distribution of rainfall in the region and a subsequently devastating number of farmer suicides. 
 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins is a global power leader that designs, manufactures, sells and services diesel and alternative fuel engines from 2.8 to 95 liters, diesel and alternative-fueled electrical generator sets from 2.5 to 3,500 kW, as well as related components and technology. Cummins serves its customers through its network of 600 company-owned and independent distributor facilities and more than 7,200 dealer locations in over 190 countries and territories.

He likes to look back as he looks forward to a carbon-neutral future

Chief Technical Officer Jim Fier speaks at an International Women's Day event in 2020, shortly before the pandemic fully hit the company.
Chief Technical Officer Jim Fier speaks at an International Women's Day event in 2020, shortly before the pandemic fully hit the company.

When Cummins Vice President and Chief Technical Officer Jim Fier thinks about the company’s aspiration to be carbon neutral by 2050, he says he likes to look back.

That might sound odd, but Fier told participants at last week’s virtual Work Truck Week 2021 (March 8-12), a celebration of the commercial truck industry, that he finds inspiration looking back as he looks forward to the challenge in achieving the carbon-neutral future envisioned in PLANET 2050, Cummins’ environmental sustainability strategy.

“You’re probably saying, ‘Why are you looking at the plan and you’re pointing me to the past?’,” Fier said, referring to PLANET 2050. “What gives me confidence that we’re actually going to be able to get there is looking in the rear-view mirror and seeing the innovation that has occurred over the last 30 years to get us to where we’re at today.”

Thirty years ago, diesel engine makers began what would be a remarkable success story. Working to meet increasingly tougher standards set by government regulators, the industry steadily reduced oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions, two key contributors to smog. Today, the industry’s NOx emissions are down more than 90% compared to the mid-1980s and early 1990s and PM has been reduced more than 95%.   

INTERESTING PARALLELS

There are some interesting parallels to what Cummins engineers faced then and the challenges they face today. When regulators set those increasingly tougher PM and NOx standards, no one was quite sure how the industry would reach them.

But the increasingly tougher regulations set off an unprecedented wave of innovation. Engine makers partnered with customers, academia, and others to develop ideas. Governments established public-private partnerships to help test them. 

It wasn’t easy. There were plenty of misses along the way. But eventually ultra-low sulfur fuels, increasingly sophisticated emission control devices and other innovations enabled diesel engines to reach near-zero emission levels.

The Diesel Technology Forum, a not-for-profit dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of diesel engines, fuel, and technology, estimates it would take 60 18-wheel trucks today to equal the emissions of just one 18-wheeler built before 1988.

NO  ‘LIGHT-SWITCH’ MOMENT

Predicting how quickly the commercial trucking industry will reach carbon neutrality is difficult to do, but Fier does not expect change will be like flipping on a light-switch. Just as with the effort to reduce PM and NOx, he says it will likely take time. Technology has to be developed, infrastructure has to be established to support the technology and most importantly customers have to adopt and embrace the technology.  

Cummins is developing battery electric and fuel cell electric technology to do its part. Last year, the company held its first Hydrogen Day, drawing nearly 2,000 analysts, media members and potential customers wanting to learn more about Cummins’ expanding product line using the promising low-carbon fuel source. 

Fier said the company is also working to improve its diesel engines, exploring everything from alternate fuels to technology advances. And natural gas engines and hybrid engines, combining electric and diesel, could serve as an important bridge to the future as the infrastructure develops to support low-carbon technologies.

The good news at this early moment? This new challenge is precisely what engineers live for.

“It is so much fun trying to get in and solve some of these problems and know you’re helping people doing it,” said Fier, an employee at Cummins for more than 30 years. “…There are over 11,000 engineers just waiting to get at these problems. That’s what we do as engineers. We solve problems and that’s what’s exciting for us. That brings us joy. That brings us energy and it’s great to be a part of that.”
 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

Cummins leader calls for continued innovation in all technologies to reach environmental goals

Cummins Vice Chairman Tony Satterthwaite at a speech before the pandemic. He addressed a Senate Committee Tuesday.
Cummins Vice Chairman Tony Satterthwaite at a speech before the pandemic. He addressed a Senate Committee Tuesday.

Innovation in both internal combustion and alternative technologies is the best way to achieve environmental benefits today and a carbon-neutral future, a Cummins leader told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

Vice Chairman Tony Satterthwaite testified that advanced internal combustion engines can achieve immediate reductions in air pollutants and carbon emissions while the infrastructure and manufacturing scale develops for low-carbon technologies like battery and fuel cell electric powertrains.

“The future of power requires multi-faceted innovation,” Satterthwaite told a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, testifying virtually because of the pandemic. “Our customers need the right vehicles and equipment to do their work today and in the future.” 

ACHIEVING BENEFITS TODAY

With an eye on the future, Cummins has been making a significant investment in battery and fuel cell electric powertrains in recent years, holding its first Hydrogen Day in 2020 to showcase for nearly 2,000 analysts, media members and potential customers, the company’s progress with products using the promising low-carbon fuel.

But experts say the conversion to low-carbon technologies won’t happen overnight. It will take time, for example, to develop enough refueling and recharging stations for widespread adoption. Satterthwaite said there are environmental benefits that can be achieved today with existing technologies such as advanced diesel and natural gas engines as the infrastructure develops for low- and no-carbon powertrains.

Over the next decade, high efficiency internal combustion engines with mild hybridization and low-carbon fuels can reduce both carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas (GHG), and criteria pollutants while providing customers with performance, reliability, and affordability.

Advanced internal combustion engines would enable the country to make significant progress on issues like climate change as the necessary government investment ramps up to achieve widespread adoption of low- and no-carbon platforms, Satterthwaite said.

THE PATH TO ZERO  

The executive testified that reaching a zero emission future will require government leadership in addition to commitment from manufacturers like Cummins.

“This is critical to success on our path to zero emissions,” Satterthwaite testified. “If the U.S. is to achieve this path to zero in a way that is cost effective, timely and promotes U.S. jobs and manufacturing, significant public support is needed from DOE (the Department of Energy), our national labs and other research institutions to innovate in infrastructure, development and deployment.”

Satterthwaite made a special pitch to the committee for renewable hydrogen during his testimony, maintaining it should be part of the government’s plans moving forward.

“Cummins has invested significantly in the entire hydrogen value chain because it has shown to be one of the most effective enabling technologies for broad and deep decarbonization of hard-to-abate sectors where Cummins’ products operate,” he said. “Europe and East Asia have an early lead in this space, having committed hundreds of billions of dollars respectively to promote decarbonized hydrogen production and fuel cell equipment deployment.”
 
For example, hydrogen fuel cells are seen as generating the kind of energy necessary to power passenger trains, so rail systems wouldn’t have to string electric wire overhead for long distances to get the low-carbon benefits of electrification.

LOOKING AHEAD

Satterthwaite said additional public-private partnerships such as the SuperTruck initiative, which has led to significant advances in fuel efficiency for diesel engines, could be a cost-effective way to encourage development of the new technologies critical to addressing climate change.

“A new SuperTruck III program will build upon these improvements with the focus on CO2-reducing technologies such as efficiency improvements, low carbon fuels, hybridization, battery electrification and fuel cell optimization for entire fleets,” Satterthwaite said in his testimony.

The Cummins executive concluded by encouraging the committee to avoid choosing a single technology as the best way to move forward.

"Enacting policies that promote the power of choice for every market will help ensure that this country and every community within it has the proven technology necessary to serve the economy while meeting air quality and climate goals on the path to net-zero emissions," he said.

 

blair claflin director of sustainability communications

Blair Claflin

Blair Claflin is the Director of Sustainability Communications for Cummins Inc. Blair joined the Company in 2008 as the Diversity Communications Director. Blair comes from a newspaper background. He worked previously for the Indianapolis Star (2002-2008) and for the Des Moines Register (1997-2002) prior to that. [email protected]

 

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