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Winter is the time of year when cold weather hinders refinery operations, pipelines, and railways. The winter weather creates a number of obstacles for these things to do their job in delivering much-needed fuel to demanding markets. Winter is usually unrelenting with cold temperatures across much of the U.S., which increases demand for space heating fuels and upsets crude oil and natural gas production as well as refinery operations, pipelines, and railways.
Winter effects in the oil and gas industries
It’s not just the weather outside that matters to energy management. Weather plays an important role in any household, and can also have major impacts on your bill at home or work! Think about it: when you turn up those heaters during a winter storm (like most people), what do they do? They increase demand for oil which reduces supply– leading to prices higher than they would otherwise be.
You have to bet on the weather when it comes to offshore work. Unfortunately, bad weather striking at the wrong time can delay a project and push costs up.
The cold weather puts a strain on your oil and gas production facility’s uptime. Whether you’re in Canada, a chilly-weather state like North Dakota, or just experiencing freezing temperatures during the winter, frozen gas lines and control valves may pose significant obstacles to your production objectives.
Workers come first
When you work outside in the cold, make sure to cover your skin. Wear PPE and dress in layers. It is also important to wear gloves and put on a winter cap for your ears.
There are companies that are redefining winter gear for the oil and gas industries. Unlike other insulative technologies, look for clothing that covers staying warm outdoors in four aspects:
- stays warm when wet
- easy to move in
- blocks wind
- easy to use and feels very compact
You should also take extra care of your hands during the cold months. Look for gloves that offer excellent protection for the bones in your hand while also retaining dexterity and appropriate weather protection. Nowadays you can find PPE that was developed over a period of many years to give amazing protection from the biting cold for the bones in the hand while still allowing you full control.
Freezing fluids during the winter
Frozen equipment can cause significant production downtime and aggravation. While lowering ambient temperatures aren’t going to help matters, valves can freeze at any time of the year owing to pressure drops in the gas passing through them. Pressure drops in the gas flowing through a valve are one of the most common reasons for valves to become frozen.
Luckily, there are many ways to prevent freeze damage. Wrapping your vulnerable valves with insulation and heat tape is one way but it’s not the most efficient or clean technique for fixing control valves when compared to other methods.
Make sure that all of your back pressure regulators (and any other production equipment that uses breather plugs) have their breather plug vents facing down. Put a wrench on the breather plug and turn it until the hole is pointing toward the ground. Turn the breather plug away from the north wind if it’s positioned horizontally to prevent wind and rain from entering and causing freezing.
In the case of pneumatic tools maintenance during the winter, make sure you apply cold weather tool oil to your pneumatic grinder or wrench. Also, put a moisture shield on your compressor so it can keep running smoothly.
Catalytic heaters have been used in industrial applications for a long time. They are called catalytic because they use chemicals that break down molecules to produce heat, which is what makes them hot. Catalytic heaters do not need a flame, so they can be used in many places where a fire is not allowed.
Catco heaters need three things to work: Oxygen, heat, and fuel. There is a preheated catalyst that generates a chemical reaction when it is exposed to natural gas. From there the chemical reaction creates heat.
To achieve this, the heat is transferred to desired locations using heat pipe technology. This method allows them to be used in low-energy settings since it effectively distributes and uses heat. The heater’s interior structure ensures an even gas distribution through its unique configuration.
Catalytic heaters are suitable for use in all phases of the natural gas extraction and delivery process, as well as in any location where the atmosphere has natural gas or other explosion risks. Since they never create a flame and can be started with little power — even using a truck battery — they’re ideal for use in all aspects of natural gas.
Transportation and refineries
Many refineries eventually are forced to shut down as a result of power outages and the physical impact of the cold on operational units. Extremely chilly situations may need more equipment at drill sites, and drilling speed may be slowed as a result. Heating units are required to keep the huge volumes of water employed in hydraulic fracturing from freezing, while snow significantly slows down drilling.
According to the Energy Information Association, Texas is the country’s top crude oil and natural gas producer. Extreme cold temperatures, such as the one Texas experienced in 2020, can make this challenging. It may take weeks for production to fully recover as businesses assess the damage caused by the storm, affecting global oil supply and rising prices.
The natural gas sector and infrastructure are unprepared for the winter months. Their power generation facilities are insufficient to withstand severe cold. In harsh weather, nearly half of the state’s natural gas output could be lost.
Transportation can also have a big toll during the winter months. Floods and heavy snow shorten the life of roads. Water and snow can cause problems in some roads that also might need repairs or rebuilding.
Not only is the cold weather a preoccupation. Ice roads in Alaska require extremely low temperatures. These are roads that have been frozen while they connect northern regions with oil, gas, and mining industries. Because the ground is frozen beneath these ice roads, they are only accessible when the earth is frozen. Warming temperatures would decrease the number of days when ice roads are open, restricting access to these areas.
Winter weather creates a number of hindrances on refinery and gas operations, causing the nation’s energy infrastructure to have a harsh time in winter’s obstacles.
Workers in the oil and gas industries need to be aware of winter weather’s impact on transportation, refineries, and drilling operations. They have to take extra precautions so they do not suffer from winter weather impediments.