Methane leaking from natural gas pipelines is a huge problem. NextSeal’s sealing technology can reduce leakage by 95 percent, thanks to a revolutionary approach of counterbalancing the pressure.
”In USA alone, our technology has the potential to reduce emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from natural gas pipelines with 29 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents annually. Methane is the main component of natural gas and the emissions are roughly equal to half of the annual carbon footprint of New York city. It also benefits the environment when the energy contained in the natural gas can be used by consumers instead of just leaking to the atmosphere”, says Andreas Söderberg, CEO of NextSeal.
Dealing with the gas leaks is highly prioritized in the USA, and President Obama has recently decided to reduce the natural gas industry’s emissions by 45 percent between 2012 and 2025. The US Department of Energy is looking for technology that can help reduce the climate impact of the natural gas infrastructure. One of the innovation companies that has gotten their attention is Swedish NextSeal, and USA is now making a two-year investment of 7 million SEK in the company’s sealing technology.
The global natural gas production is 4300 x 109 cubic meters (2010), and USA is the top producer. The annual leakage is approximately 1000 x 109 cubic meters, with a value of about 300 billion SEK. The waste is about the same volume as the entire natural gas production by Saudi Arabia, the eighth largest producer in the world. If no measures are taken, the global natural gas leakage will increase by 30 percent until 2030, with serious consequences for the climate.
”NextSeal has developed a unique technology to seal different kinds of compressors. It began with an attempt to develop a compressor for the food industry. We put down a list of requirements: small size, high pressure resistance, oil free to avoid contamination of foodstuff, and long life. We did not find any commercially available solutions so we came up with our own, a solution that actually can revolutionize the sealing industry”, Andreas Söderberg says.
”What makes the technology unique is that we seal for a liquid instead of a gas. Simply put, we are balancing the pressure over the compressor seal with a liquid whose pressure adjusts to the gas pressure. It can be taken from an external or internal tank, and the machine is turned into a liquid pump instead of a compressor. Under the pressure conditions in the machine, a gas leaks thousands of times more than a liquid. Hence, the compressor leakage is nearly negligible with our technology. The wear on the machines is minimal as well”, Andreas says.
400 000 km of natural gas pipeline in the USA
”The pipeline system for natural gas distribution in the US is gigantic, approximately 400 000 km in length. Every 100 km or so, a compressor station is set to regulate the pressure in the pipe. That is where the leakage occurs, and that is where our sealing equipment will be installed. We are estimating that we can reduce leakage by 95 percent compared with the current situation. That means about 20 – 30 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents”.
”We still have a lot of work to do before NextSeal’s components are in place. We need to find out more about the lifespan of the component, and how the technology performs in larger scale; the natural gas compressors are very big. The economic benefit is an important motivation; the wasted gas is a huge cost. We now have two years to develop and test the technology, and we hope to have a product on the market sometime in 2018”, Andreas Söderberg says.
Nextseal is cooperating with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and Williams Pipeline. SwRI employs more than 2000 researchers and engineers in applied research and development. Williams Pipeline has more than 100 years of experience in natural gas infrastructure, and is responsible for a third of the natural gas distribution in the US.
The article was published in December 2016.