FARMINGTON — Emissions from natural gas production could be reduced to near zero if a local man's patented idea proves successful.

Allen McCulloch's brainstorm is an idea that is seemingly simple, but if proven could provide a way to meeting tightening environmental regulations.

"The mission of the device (is) to reduce exhaust emissions from the internal combustion engines that power natural gas compressors," McCulloch said.

His idea involves installing piping hardware on the engine exhaust that feeds into the gas line headed to the refinery plant. At the plant, the emissions particulates would be filtered out, thus producing near zero emissions for gas compressors.

At a time when the Environmental Protection Agency is looking to further regulate emissions in other production such as methane, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, McCulloch believes his idea would help keep natural gas wells ahead of future emissions regulations.

McCulloch said he doesn't have a cost associated with his invention because the device would be custom made at each well site. However, he added that the design is cost-effective compared to other emission controls.

Natural gas and petroleum production is responsible for 29 percent of the methane emissions in the country, according to the EPA's website.

Questions directed to the EPA about the current status and future of emissions policy were not returned by press time.

McCulloch said he ran a 72-hour simulation on a natural gas pump that was successful.

The simulation was necessary because he couldn't put the exhaust into the production pipeline as called for in his method's patent.

"The next phase is ... to let the extra (emissions) byproducts be transported in the pipelines. Then we need buy in from the gasoline plants," he said.

One of the issues he said is that the amount of carbon dioxide, a corrosive agent, in most natural gas pipelines hovers around 35 percent of the total product. His process would add another 7 percent.

"They've already dealt with CO2 and we're going to add a little bit more," he said.

Methane gas is also part of the engine exhaust and McCulloch said his method would reduce those emissions from production sites.

The EPA released a statement regarding methane gas reductions supporting "President Barack Obama's Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions."

"The agency is seeking peer review and public input on the (research), as we work to solidify our understanding of certain sources of methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions in the oil and natural gas industry," according to the statement from the EPA.

"EPA will determine how to best pursue additional reductions this fall," the statement said.

Allen McCulloch poses for portrait on May 9 in front of a ConocoPhillips separator off of Farmington Avenue in Farmington.
Allen McCulloch poses for portrait on May 9 in front of a ConocoPhillips separator off of Farmington Avenue in Farmington. (Megan Farmer/The Daily Times)

McCulloch said his process could reduce emissions by 99 percent, including methane gases.

He added that he is currently engaged in talks with ConocoPhillips, though company officials couldn't verify they are actively speaking with McCulloch.

Regardless, McCulloch is hopeful that the area companies will see the merit of his idea.

"I think there's a way to help all aspects of the energy industry and being compliant and possibly getting in a front of the EPA and having more rigorous emissions control than required by the EPA at less costs," he said.

Erny Zah is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4638 and ezah@daily-times.com. Follow him @ernyzah on Twitter.