In underbalanced drilling (UBD) surface equipment inerting, potentially explosive fluids are collected and processed in collection tanks on the surface. The four-phase separator vessels fall into the following categories:
- Drilling system
- Gas-generation equipment
- Well-control equipment
- Surface separation equipment
This article focuses on gas-generation equipment, specifically N2, used to displace oxygen and prevent an explosive environment.
Nitrogen for UBD operations
Nitrogen is crucial for many operations for both its inert properties and as a liquid for cooling and freezing. In the oil and gas industry, nitrogen is used for many applications to make the worksite safer, reduce production costs, and as a cost-effective solution.
While there are other forms of gas generation available, nitrogen can achieve a purity level of 99%, minimizing the risk of combustion. Nitrogen is the preferred method to prevent dangerous reactions between oxygen and hydrocarbons.
For worksites that require a consistent and steady flow of nitrogen, companies turn to onsite nitrogen generation to improve yields and eliminate downtime.
Onsite nitrogen generation for UBD surface equipment inerting
The traditional way of supplying nitrogen involves delivering liquid nitrogen in tanks to the site. The issue here is that this method requires complex logistics and requires more workers on hand to safely pack, transport, deliver, and unload nitrogen tanks. This process becomes even more challenging for temporary remote sites. Additionally, up to 10% of the nitrogen can be lost during transportation which means companies are paying for a product that never makes it to their location.
Onsite nitrogen generation eliminates all of the above. With a generator at the site, there is no need for delivery, transportation, and handling of nitrogen tanks, which can be dangerous because of the risk of spills.
- Minimizes lost production
Onsite nitrogen generation has a quicker startup time, which translates to less downtime. Lost production can be costly for the oil and gas industry. This is especially problematic when there is a delay in delivering conventional liquid nitrogen tanks. Without nitrogen, many operations need to shut down for the safety of everyone. With an onsite nitrogen generator, companies eliminate that problem altogether.
- Provides a consistent flow of nitrogen
With a consistent flow of nitrogen, purity levels can reach up to 99%. There is no need to pause operations and switch tanks, which allows oxygen to re-enter the environment.
- Better carbon footprint
Producing liquid nitrogen takes an incredible amount of energy as it involves nitrogen cooling, separation, and filtration before they even make it onto the delivery truck. When you add the logistics and costs involved with transportation, you can imagine the impact on the environment over time. Onsite nitrogen generation has a significantly better carbon footprint with fewer emissions and less energy used to provide nitrogen.