Upstream Technology

From Alaska and Wyoming to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, BP uses innovative technologies to improve all aspects of its oil and gas production activities. Many of these technologies can help the company reduce greenhouse gas emissions in its operations.

Curtailing methane emissions, in particular, remains a major focus of BP’s Lower 48 onshore business, which is one of America’s largest natural gas producers. Over the past two decades, BP Lower 48 has achieved significant methane reductions through a series of voluntary actions.

For example:

  • The business has replaced around 99 percent of its high- bleed pneumatic controllers with continuous low-bleed and intermittent pneumatic controllers. These controllers use energy from pressurized natural gas to operate valves and control pressure, flow, temperature and liquid levels. Depending on their design, they can release (or “bleed”) natural gas into the atmosphere. Thus, replacing high- bleed pneumatics can help reduce methane emissions.
  • It has reduced venting during liquids unloading by implementing enhanced automation, plunger lift, and optimized shut-in cycles through its Smart Automation project in the San Juan Basin. The unloading process occurs when operators bring liquids that have accumulated in a well up to the surface. • It implemented “green completion” technology before such technology was a regulatory requirement. Green completion equipment helps recover natural gas for sale and minimize the amount that is flared or vented during the completion of wells.
  • It has replaced many of its chemical injection pumps with solar pumps. • It has optimized its compressor engine fleet to reduce the number and size of engines. • It has installed a waste heat recovery unit at its Florida River gas plant in Colorado. This unit allows the plant to capture exhaust gas waste heat and use it for energy.

Thanks to these actions and others, BP’s Lower 48 business has slashed its total greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent since 2000, with methane reductions accounting for most of the decline.

BP Lower 48 currently is piloting the use of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to further enhance methane leak detection.

It also uses digital platforms, augmented-reality goggles and advanced analytics to collect, share and explore data on its operations. Technicians wearing the goggles can read sensor information on their lenses and communicate in real time with experts at a control center. The experts, in turn, can overlay instructions and data in the technician’s field of vision.

Such technologies have helped BP Lower 48 improve safety while reducing its shale oil and gas production costs by more than a third over the past five years.

Meanwhile, in Houston, BP’s Center for High-Performance Computing (CHPC) — one of the world’s most powerful supercomputers for commercial research — provides crucial support to the company’s Gulf of Mexico business.

Computer scientists and mathematicians at the CHPC have made historic breakthroughs in rock physics and advanced seismic imaging, allowing BP teams to see deep into the Earth’s subsurface.

In 2017, BP used the CHPC and its proprietary seismic imaging technology to identify an additional 1 billion barrels of oil in place at its existing Gulf of Mexico fields.

The company recently developed a new seismic technology known as Wolfspar, which can help scientists and engineers see through massive salt layers that typically distort survey images. BP is piloting the use of Wolfspar at its Mad Dog field, before deploying it around the world.

In Alaska, the company has used drones to inspect its equipment on the North Slope, and in 2018 it completed two important technology trials. The first one focused on improving methane leak detection, while the second one tested the use of crawlers to perform pipeline inspections.

In 2019, BP Alaska plans to complete a 3D seismic survey of the entire Prudhoe Bay operating area. This survey will help the company pursue new drilling and well work at Prudhoe Bay, and thereby extend the life of the field.