Changes in consumer activity, volatility in the oil and gas market, and other factors related to this year’s global pandemic have led to a decrease in demand for natural gas. The correlating move is for product to be moved to underground gas storage facilities, which highlights the need for measurement standard operating procedures (SOPs) to increase the accuracy of measurement.
Additionally, for companies whose assets are subject to federal oversight, consider updating or implementing measurement SOPs to support alignment with the new final rule published by PHMSA earlier this year regarding Underground Natural Gas Storage facilities (UNGSFs).
The Latest Statistics on Natural Gas Consumption and Storage
According to a July report issued by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the overall consumption of natural gas in the U.S. for residential and industrial use is expected to decrease by 3.1% in 2020 and then decrease by another 4.5% in 2021.
Specific to industrial use, the EIA is forecasting that consumption by the industrial sector will decline by 6.2% in 2020. “Most of this 2020 decrease is the result of less manufacturing activity following COVID-19 mitigation efforts,” the EIA noted in their report.
We can already see the corresponding move of companies moving product to underground natural gas storage facilities. The latest EIA data captures a significant increase in storage from March 2020 to April 2020 at the height of the pandemic.
- All Natural Gas in Storage for all operators: 4.8% one-month increase (6,408,945 million cubic feet in March to 6,718,008 mcf in April).
- Natural Gas in storage for salt cavern storage fields: 15.5% one-month increase (463,377 mcf in March to 534,990 mcf in April).
- Natural Gas in storage for nonsalt cavern storage: 4.0% one-month increase (5,945,568 mcf in March to 6,183,018 mcf in April).
Another round of data will be released at the end of July capturing the latest trends following the initial COVID-19 disruption. Clearly, though, there is an increased need to support the accurate measurement of natural gas when transferring product to underground natural gas facilities.
Utilize Measurement SOPs to Support Product Measurement
Measurement SOPs outline the processes, safety measures, and technology that are involved in the activity of moving natural gas into each of these reservoir types:
- Depleted oil and natural gas fields
- Salt formations
- Depleted aquifers
It’s not enough for measurement personnel to simply know how to utilize the technology or tools to perform measurement in each reservoir type. The action of performing measurement needs to be based on an understanding of the fundamentals of measurement, the industry standards, and the best practices for performing the measurement.
Measurement SOPs are designed to pull together the most applicable information to support each measurement task that personnel need to complete in the field. Most importantly, procedures create consistency in how the measurement is performed, and consistency leads to accuracy.
An error during the transfer of product to an underground facility will be compounded at a later time when the product is eventually withdrawn from the underground facility. Getting the measurement right the first time at the start of the process is critical to support the integrity of your company’s operations, avoid disputes with third-parties, and uphold contracts.
Aligning With PHMSA Regulations on Underground Gas Storage
Measurement SOPs are also valuable to support the measurement of natural gas if your pipeline assets are subject to PHMSA regulations. Specifically, measurement SOPs increase alignment with the new gas storage rule published to the federal registry in January 2020.
The final rule incorporates by reference API Recommended Practices 1170 and 1171 into the pipeline safety regulations. RPs 1170 and 1171 outline the safety standards for the most common types of underground facilities and provide guidance on the minimum federal standards for inspection, enforcement, and training.
As noted by PHMSA in their announcement, these standards will directly apply to approximately 200 interstate facilities and serve as the minimum federal standard for approximately 200 intrastate facilities.
- API 1170: provides the functional recommendations for salt cavern facilities used for natural gas storage service and covers facility geomechanical assessments, cavern well design and drilling, solution mining techniques, and operations, including monitoring and maintenance practices.
- API 1171: recommends that operators manage the integrity of natural gas storage in depleted oil and gas reservoirs. This recommended practice includes monitoring and maintenance.
The new rule also includes information adapted from API RP 1171, Table 1 (Storage Well Potential Threats and Consequences) to identify “outside-force natural causes” that could affect the integrity of underground natural gas storage facilities. These “causes” include heavy rains, floods, lightning, earth movements, groundwater table changes, subsidence, etc. that could result in damage to facilities and impact to service reliability.
– To find out more about this aspect of maintaining the integrity of underground gas storage facilities in alignment with the new gas storage rule, listen to Pipeliners Podcast episode #136 on the Geotechnical Hazards in Pipelining with Jen Holmstadt, a senior project manager for design and consulting firm WSB.
Contact GCI for Support With Measurement SOPs
As your operational activity changes in response to the COVID-19 environment, you may need to update or implement measurement SOPs that better reflect present and future activity. This way, your personnel will be better equipped to support the measurement function at a critical time for your company and the industry as a whole.
Gas Certification Institute (GCI) works with companies and operators that require measurement SOPs that reflect their specific operating profile. We take SOP templates that reflect industry standards, best practices, and the latest regulations (e.g. the new final gas storage rule), then apply the templates to your operating profile to be ready for use in your operation.
Your personnel will be able to consistently perform measurement of natural gas during the transfer of product to underground natural gas facilities, which then leads to accuracy in measurement. Then, you will be able to validate the accuracy of measurement using measurement SOPs as your source documentation.
To find out more about how we can support your company through the delivery of measurement SOPs, contact us today. We are ready to support your activity, especially if moving product to underground gas storage facilities.