The United States and Canada are recognized as leading countries for environmental protection and regulation for the American oil & gas industry. API, ASME and MSS fugitive emission standards have become intrinsic to major oil companies globally, and recently, to those in Mexico aiming to reduce their environmental impact and expand their influence internationally.

Fugitive Emissions Journal was pleased to speak with Mike Braun, VP at Infratech Corporation and Founding Partner of Eminent, Marco Cota, CEO of Talanza Energy and Founding Partner of Eminent and Maria Serna, Partner of Talanza Energy, about how the landscape for environmental services has changed in Mexico, how fugitive emission regulations compare to those in North America, and Eminent’s net zero ambitions.

As an energy trading company, Infratech Corporation has presence in 22 countries, and five offices located in Switzerland, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Nigeria, and Kazakhstan, and Talanza Energy is a leading consulting firm in oil and gas working in Mexico, Houston and Colombia. Both companies made a recent venture, called Eminent, with the intent of providing environmental services for the oil & gas and process industries in Latin America that are not readily available in the current market.

Bridging North & Latin American Markets

Though Mexico was one of the first countries to establish a regulation for fugitive emissions in oil & gas, its adoption was dismal, as leading companies did not emphasis, or reinforce the need for such proactive environmental measures. “The oil & gas industry in Mexico has mainly been characterized by one state-owned company called Pemex,” noted Marco Cota. “They do not demand services for reducing all hydrocarbon fugitive emissions, particularly methane.” As a result of this monopoly by the state-owned company, there are very few options available in the country that offer environmental services for the emission reduction of all hydrocarbons, as it is not mandated.

In February 2021, Eminent was launched by Marco Cota and Mike Braun. Infratech specializes in efficient infrared inspection and leak detection services for the oil & gas industry. Braun brought his expertise and know-how to Mexico to help establish the new company offering something different to the market – the concept of optimizing operations by detecting and reducing methane emissions achieving greater performance, while simultaneously reducing risk and product loss for clients.

“We noticed Latin America was stalling behind the U.S., Canada and Europe in regard to fugitive emission reduction, despite having a very strong, modern basis for regulation, there was no segment providing the necessary services for oil & gas operators to be able to comply with the regulation,” said Cota. “We saw an opportunity to make a contribution, help bridge the knowledge gap and aid the technology transfer between North America and Latin America.”

The partners understood this as not only a gap in the market, but also an important international pressure to achieve net zero. “It is an imminent necessity for oil & gas to become more sustainable,” Cota continued. “Many leading oil and gas companies have advocated for zero emissions by 2050. These commitments further incentivized us to become activists for fugitive emission reduction.”

Fugitive Emission Regulations

Unlike the U.S. and Canada, the Mexican government does not stringently enforce emission protocols or regulations, it is up to individual companies to do so. Recently Royal Dutch Shell, the European oil major, sold assets in Mexico, and Deer Park, Texas, U.S. to Pemex for about USD $596 million, in its latest move to cut its global refining footprint. The deal ends a 28-year partnership between Shell and Pemex, Mexico’s state-run oil company that processed up to 340,000 barrels per day of oil into gasoline and diesel. The move will likely further diminish any existing emission control activities that may have been implemented by companies like Shell based outside of the Latin American region. “In the U.S., companies are liquidating, the Mexican government in contrast is buying up assets and is in the process of building another refinery,” said Cota. It is imperative that Mexico adopts strategies for fugitive emission compliance, or emission output are bound to increase.

Despite the differences in countries, the regulations they aim to follow are quite similar. “There is not a lot of change from one country to the next – we all basically have the same goal to head toward net zero in some way. The differences lie more in the understanding of the different procedures required by the regulations and knowing the basics of each one,” said Braun. Braun continued, “If we could take the best of the Canadian, U.S. and Mexican regulations, we would have a phenomenal program globally but for now we must work within the means of the region.”

Eminent Energy, Mexico, engineering

Environmental Services

As a result of Eminent’s unique value proposition, and lack of competition in the existing Latin American environmental compliance space, they are well positioned in the market offering extensive inspections, leak detection and repair (LDAR) services, investment consulting and other valuable tools to help oil & gas companies achieve their emission targets. There are related HSE and environmental consulting companies that offer direct measurements and inspections, but not with the same high level of technical analysis, trading, and financial options. “We have been sourced by both local and international operators that are now demanding they comply with regulations. The sense of responsibility has changed,” said Maria Serna.

As methane holds a higher global warming potential than other hydrocarbons, it was viewed as the ‘low hanging fruit’, offering the company an adequate place to be-gin its focus. “Methane is widely seen as the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and is contributing more damage than any other petroleum product. By eliminating this one emission, and reducing/eliminating purposeful venting, we can eliminate a huge chunk of the environmental problem in oil and gas,” said Braun. The company evolved to offer capabilities to monitor different types of hydrocarbons as time progressed.

Braun continued, “What we offer is the ability for our clients to actually see their emissions and quantify those emissions to then determine the best route to head towards net zero.” The company currently uses FLIR GF320 cameras to visualize the emissions of any hydrocarbon, using Optical Gas Imaging (OGI) as the preferred method over sniffing in Method 21. “We take an image with the FLIR GF320 camera and record an actual video of the emission, which might look like for ex-ample, smoke coming from a valve or tank. We then quantify the emissions based on the video (QOGI),” said Braun. 100% of the components and potential leak points in client facilities are quickly and efficiently inspected using the OGI method.

Looking Beyond Borders

Regulatory approaches regarding environmental safety and fugitive emissions for the oil & gas industry is directly affected by politics. The adoption of regulations de-pends on the party, and leader of the country at the time, thus it can be difficult to navigate the varying standards between regions at different times. “In Canada and the U.S., environmental service offerings for oil & gas were first presented as a safety issue, then a cost savings approach,” reflected Braun. “The most important part in Canada is its preventative maintenance programs.” In contrast, Mexico began the process backwards, focusing first on reduced product loss and cost savings. “As a result of caring about the environmental issues, by default you are helping companies become more financially stable, aiding product loss, and keeping employees safer,” said Cota. “Often when we look at the results from our LDAR programs, there is greater savings than the cost of the inspection.”

As for what the future holds in Mexico, the story continues to unfold as companies like Eminent look for new opportunities to bring the technology, infrastructure, and know-how for oil & gas companies in Latin America to achieve their emission targets. “Net zero is not just a tagline – it is something that is actually possible. It is a reality, and we have the tools to make it happen,” said Braun. “The damage we do to our environment now isn’t paid by us it is paid for by the next generation. We can’t wait, we need to do something now.”

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