Research Projects

Project at a Glance

Project Status: complete

Report Published May 1980:

Title: Determination of air pollutant emission factors for thermal testing oil recovery operations in California

Principal Investigator / Author(s): Taback, H. J.

Contractor: KVB, Inc.

Contract Number: A7-075-30

Research Program Area: Emissions Monitoring & Control

Topic Areas: Stationary Sources


The purpose of this program was to determine the nature and extent of air pollutants resulting from thermally enhanced oil recovery methods in California and to determine emission factors for some of the sources of these pollutants.

Thermally enhanced oil recovery processes, also known as thermal tertiary oil recovery processes,employ techniques to heat viscous and entrapped subterranean oil so that it will more readily flow and can be pumped to the surface. Air pollution resulting from these processes occurs from essentially two sources, 1) the combustion of fuel on the surface to generate heating fluids which are injected into the well and (2) the release of contaminated steam from well vents, i.e.:

* Steam generators, water heaters and air compressors which combust fossil fuels, and
* Fugitive emissions emanating from the oil wells themselves at well vents and other equipment accessory to the wells.

The scope of the program included developing emission factors for particulates, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons, using both previously developed data and data from field tests conducted by KVB during the program.

In general, the emission factors developed in this report for steam generators are consistent with published EPA factors for industrial boilers, although some differences are noted. Differences in fuel composition at various locations and differences in combustion technology and equipment contribute to the variability of test results.

Well vent emissions were determined for two types of fields. In one field steam is generated on the surface and injected into the reservoir which is vented to the surface. This process is called steamfolding. In the other field, air is pumped into the reservoir where it is used to burn some of the crude in processes called in-situ combustion or firefolding. This reservoir is also vented to the surface.

It was concluded that fireflooding appears to be less polluting than steamflooding, based on the few tests conducted on this program. It is strongly recommended that much more well vent data be obtained to substantiate the well vent emission factors developed on this limited-scope program.

Volume II of this report is an appendix that contains detailed data from tests conducted during the program.


For questions regarding this research project, including available data and progress status, contact: Heather Choi at (916) 322-3893

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