The promise of tomorrow is reshaping a clean world with clean energy, at least that is the case for the oil and gas industry. With the climate crisis in focus, the oil and gas industry needs to step up its game to downsize its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to McKinsey, oil and gas operations account for 9% of all human-made GHG emissions in addition to producing fuels that contribute to another 33% of global emissions. One effective way the industry can reduce its GHG emissions is through utilizing Combined heat and power (CHP) technology.

Understanding CHP

CHP is an energy-efficient technology that generates electricity and captures waste heat to produce electric power and thermal energy that can be used for space heating, cooling, domestic hot water, and industrial processes. Combustion turbines, also known as reciprocating engine CHP systems, burn fuel such as; natural gas, oil, or biogas, to turn generators to produce electricity and use heat recovery devices to capture the heat from the turbine or engine. This type of technology uses an engine that runs on a single fuel type. It has multiple benefits as it lowers energy costs, increases efficiency, and improves reliability while also providing other environmental benefits.

CHP can be used in a wide range of industrial applications with significant and concurrent power and thermal loads. Approximately two-thirds of the energy used in conventional electricity generation is wasted heat that is released into the atmosphere. Furthermore, additional energy is wasted during the transmission of electricity to end-users. CHP can achieve efficiencies of more than 80% by capturing and utilizing wasted heat and avoiding distribution losses, compared to 50% for typical technologies.

In the energy sector specifically, basic processes, such as oil recovery, petroleum refining, natural gas distillation, and pipeline compressor stations, consume a lot of energy, but many facilities still waste it by releasing it into the atmosphere rather than using it to generate electricity. This is where CHP can become a viable option for sites with hot water, steam, or other thermal loads. These highly efficient power-generating systems produce more energy from a given amount of initial fuel, resulting in significant cost savings.

CHP Advantages

Due to the fact that less fuel is burned to produce each unit of energy output and because transmission and distribution losses are avoided, CHP reduces emissions of greenhouse gases as well as other air pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2).

CHP technology can be deployed quickly, affordably, and with few geographical constraints. CHP can operate on a variety of fuels, both fossil and renewable. For many years, it has been used primarily in industrial, large commercial, and institutional circles, but it has also quietly been providing highly efficient electricity and processing heat to some of the most vital industries, largest employers, urban centers, and campuses in the US.

Case Study

By examining CHP projects in real life, one can see the efficiency of the technology. One example of such a project is Targa Resources Company, which operates a natural gas distillation facility in Mont Belvieu, Texas. The company studied the possibility of generating on-site power by using CHP to improve the efficiency and reliability of its heating plant as well as the potential to expand its facilities. In 2009, the company installed a 15-megawatt (MW) CHP project, which provides as much as 90% of the facility’s electricity.