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Facilities are a system of vessels, piping, valves, tanks and other equipment that are used to gather, process, measure, store or dispose of petroleum, natural gas or water.

Altagas BC Plant Photo

British Columbia has a unique diversity of oil and gas facilities that combine innovative engineering designs with a changing focus from oil to natural gas over the last 50 years.

The facility infrastructure in the province of British Columbia exists primarily in the northeastern corner of the province where the raw product originates from drilled and completed oil and gas wells. This is typically called the upstream industry. There are also a number of facilities that handle natural gas transmission, distribution, and liquefaction throughout British Columbia.

The upstream facility network includes equipment for the handling of oil, natural gas, natural gas liquids, and water. There are approximately 2350 active facilities currently operating in B.C. These include approximately 1200 natural gas facilities, 1000 oil facilities, and 150 for handling produced water, disposal of fluids, and fluid storage.

The shift from an oil to natural gas emphasis with drilling and production has resulted in a significant growth in the number of gas processing plants and compressor stations in the last 20 years. There are currently 99 active gas processing plants in B.C., and the growth continues with a number of plants under construction and more expansions being planned. The last decade has seen the start-up of 25 new gas processing plants in the province with the majority of those plants operating close to full capacity.

In order to better understand the function and reason for particular oil and gas facilities please see the below definitions:

Oil facilities

The majority of oil facility types in B.C. include a battery, processing battery, and satellite battery. There are other minor facility types related to oil facilities, such as oil sales meters.

A battery means a system or arrangement of tanks or other surface equipment receiving the raw product from one or more wells prior to delivery to market, and may include equipment or devices for separating the product into oil/condensate, natural gas or water and for measurement.

A processing battery is a battery where additional equipment is added to process the oil, or solution gas, such as: compression, gas dehydration (water vapour removal), injection, or disposal, but not gas processing equipment. These additional processes treat the product for further refining or market sale.

A satellite battery is simply a battery for testing oil wells and typically includes a test separator with no oil storage.

Natural gas facilities

The major natural gas facility types in B.C. include a gas processing plant, NGL fractionation facility, and compressor station.

A gas processing plant is the most complex natural gas facility in BC, other than a liquefied natural gas facility. The primary purpose of a gas plant is to remove waste products from the raw natural gas stream, such as hydrogen sulphide and carbon dioxide, and/or to remove natural gas liquids (NGLs), such as propane, butane, and pentanes plus products. The purposes for removing these products from the natural gas stream are twofold:

  1. To produce a clean and useable gas stream that can be safely fed into the province’s transmission and distribution pipeline network for industrial, commercial and residential use, and
  2. For the sale of marketable natural gas liquids such as propane for direct industrial, commercial and residential use. In some cases the NGLs are transported by pipeline to fractionation facilities in BC, or other jurisdictions for further processing and refining for specific markets.

A NGL fractionation facility is a processing facility that receives hydrocarbon liquids for the purpose of

processing off-spec natural gas liquids (NGLs) into one or more spec components such as propane and butane.

A compressor station is a facility for the primary purpose of compressing natural gas to a higher pressure to increase the rate of production and send the gas into a pipeline system for further processing or to market. A compressor station may also include other equipment for dehydrating natural gas, or to stabilize and store hydrocarbon liquids, such as condensate and produced water.

Supporting facilities

Some of the supporting facility types in B.C. include the following:

  • An injection station is a facility that includes gas compression or fluid pumping equipment to inject the gas or fluid into underground reservoirs for the purpose of enhancing production.
  • A disposal station is a facility that includes equipment that handles oil and gas waste. The equipment may include, but is not limited to, the treatment, recovery, storage, or disposal of drilling or completions waste, well fracture returns/flowback, and acid gas from a processing plant.
  • A pump station is a facility that includes pumping equipment used to transport hydrocarbon liquid in a major pipeline (oil or NGL), or a facility that is used to pump fresh water from a major water source.

Water facilities

The recent growth of natural gas development has required significant volumes of water. Industry has applied innovative strategies to treat and re-use close to 100 per cent of produced water recovered from wells as they flow back to facility equipment. The storage of these large volumes of water is typically centralized at water hubs where in many case pipelines are installed to transport the water to and from well pads instead of trucks hauling the water on roads.

A water hub is a facility where produced water or well fracture flowback is being stored from one or more well pads, either in above ground tanks, open top containers, or in excavated ponds, and utilized for storage and/or well completions operations.

The associated equipment may include storage tanks, generators, pumps, piping, meters and filters, and the installation may be temporary or permanent in nature.

A water hub can be a stand-alone facility, or may exist at the same site as another facility such as a compressor station or gas processing plant. It is established only where the produced fluid is stored separate from a facility used to compress, dehydrate, or process gas or oil.

More definitions

What is sour gas at facilities?

Sour gas is natural gas that contains any amounts of hydrogen sulphide (H2S). The actual concentration of H2S determines the design of a facility including the materials used in the piping and equipment, and the specific type of equipment to ensure there is no H2S released to the atmosphere under routine or non-routine operations.

What is flaring and venting at facilities?

Oil and gas facilities are designed with a primary focus on public safety and health, and the environment. Flaring at facilities is a part of a safe operating design, and allows for any emergency releases of natural gas to be burned in a safe and efficient manner only when required. In some cases smaller facilities at well sites are able to utilize engineering controls in place of a flare system.

During the normal operation of a facility there are very limited emissions of natural gas to the atmosphere. Venting is the release of very low volumes of natural gas or other hydrocarbons at wells or facilities as part of normal operations where it is safe to do so. There has been significant innovation at facilities in the last decade to reduce venting of natural gas, and to conserve these emissions. Also, the increased use of solar and other unique sources being used to power remote facilities has replaced the use of natural gas, and the resulting venting of the gas.

Safety and Health Consideration in the Engineered Design of Facilities

The Commission uses specific regulations under the Oil and Gas Activities Act and the Environmental Management Act for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, suspension, and removal of facilities.

The regulations also specify the use of Standards, typically, but not limited to CSA Standards, where they apply to meet the requirements.

The Commission also partners with other provincial agencies such as Technical Safety BC to coordinate and provide sound oversight without duplication.

Regulatory oversight of facilities includes audits of the management systems that permit holders have in place and are used to ensure that their facilities are safe and the integrity of the processing equipment is maintained.

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