4C Environmental Conference Podcast – Part 1 – Fenceline Monitoring, OGI Technology, and Regulatory Barriers

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In the first part of a podcast recorded by Steve Probst, Founder & CEO of 4C Marketplace and Conference, Opgal’s Ram Hashmonay (Chief Innovation Scientist) and Ilan Waldman (Industrial Sales Director) discuss Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) and regulatory barriers to full adoption of the OGI technology.

The following summarizes the first part of the podcast broadcast by 4C on June 10, 2021.

With Ram’s background in Open-Path Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (OP-FTIR), Steve asks him to talk about the synergies between Fenceline Monitoring and Opgal’s OGI camera.

Ram explains that the Californian Bay Area and the South Coast Air Quality Management Districts (AQMD) rules require real-time information about air pollutant levels at a refinery fenceline and nearby communities. In addition, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Method 325 requires all refineries to monitor their facilities’ fencelines for benzene concentrations and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) compliments Fenceline Monitoring for root cause analysis. OGI is the right technology to pinpoint and find the leaks, allowing for fast repairs on detection of a leak or outlier on the fenceline. With wise-LDAR (more commonly known as smart-LDAR), you measure concentrations on the fenceline, and then you can go with an OGI camera and find a fugitive emission.

The other side of this synergy is that you can use OGI inside the fenceline. With 24/7 OGI for fixed installations or with a portable OGI, it’s easy to perform smart-LDAR surveys, find leaks, repair them. So, in this way, you positively impact the results for the industry on the Fenceline Monitoring. Hence, there is a two-way synergy; OGI helps to find leaks detected on the fenceline and also helps reduce the fenceline levels, demonstrating significant synergies between the technologies.

Steve states that in California, there’s FTIR on the fenceline and that in the US in general, OGI cameras have received wide adoption. Steve then asks Opgal to give a little insight on the adoption rate of OGI versus Method 21 (gas sniffers) and the use of OGI cameras for safety purposes around the rest of the world.

Ilan confirms that there’s a clear connection between governmental regulations and the use of OGI. Where the rules are stricter, OGI is becoming a lot more commonplace. For example, in Canada and Europe, OGI usage has increased in line with regulations, it’s also happening in Asia, but the uptake is slower. As soon as the government provides regulations, OGI becomes a lot more common in use for detection.

Ram adds that OGI is more cost-effective due to the efficiency of detection. It’s much more efficient than gas sniffers, but you must convince the industry to do it. Often, we can see that regulations around the world follow regulations in the US. There is a pattern that everybody’s looking up to US EPA, even state regulations. He states that he’s been following regulations worldwide for a long time now and sees a pattern that if it starts in the US, the regulations are copied by other countries and often finalized faster than in the US.

Steve explains that innovation drives the technology, but the technology adapts so much faster than the regulatory change that regulations have become the primary impediment to emission reductions in the US. Interestingly, some technologies now don’t want to become part of the regulatory framework because instead, they can get funding through corporate governance. Once you start the regulatory process, it can take five or more years to get incorporated into the regulatory structure and may kill technology in the meantime. So the whole concept of how fast regulations adapt to the technology is a major concern.

Ram confirmed that he was at the EPA in 2008 when the Alternative Work Practice (AWP) was published. The AWP did not meet the technology developers’ expectations because it did not wholly replace Method 21. Only now, 13 years later, are they considering the work required at the EPA to modify the AWP to line up with the technology development and allow the industry to use OGI LDAR software as complete solutions. Organizations like 4C and NGOs must push forward this regulation. The EPA case is an example of how slow regulation is and the importance of initiating and promoting voluntary programs for these technologies to survive. It’s not just important to move fast, but to move right and do something to support technology and not impede full adoption by industry.

Steve says that OGI adoption within the US is nearly universal at this point; it’s just a matter of if and when OGI becomes the AWP. When you have Fenceline Monitoring and more real-time monitoring and sensing, you’ll hugely benefit from the Opgal camera. Method 21 requires monitoring every 90 days or every year, whereas you may find a leak within 45 minutes with an OGI camera. Large leaks constitute the bulk of the emissions, and by locating those leaks quickly, there will be a significant reduction of emissions.

Method 21 gas sniffers were initially implemented in the ’80s and ’90s, with broad implementation by 2000 in the US. By 2015 the vast bulk of industrial sources and refining petrochemical oil and gas industry used this type of monitoring. In 2010, emissions reductions were down 90% from 1980, but by 2020 the change is negligible, despite the abundance of technology. Between 2020 and 2025, the hope is another 90% reduction by adopting new innovative technologies, reducing fugitive emissions to 1% of what they were in 1980.

Ram concludes that the key thing here is the real-time detection of a leak. If you find it fast and fix it, it’s a huge emission reduction in the whole scheme of things. Opgal is now also working on the upstream leakage emission solutions. Opgal has portable OGI cameras (EyeCGas 2.0 and EyeCGas Mini) and fixed OGI cameras (EyeCSite 24/7 and EyeCSite 24/7 Pro) in cooled and uncooled configurations to complete the picture to get to 1% of fugitive emissions.