The Environmental Protection Agency just released the draft of its yearly greenhouse gas emissions inventory. It shows in no uncertain terms that methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector are going in the wrong direction: Up.
Emissions from this overall sector are up two percent in 2013, which includes emissions from oil (petroleum) systems which were at their highest levels ever since estimates began in 1990 – and up 68 percent since 2005. Emissions from natural gas processing, where impurities are removed to produce pipeline quality gas, are up 38 percent since 2005. From transmission and storage: Up 11 percent.
Yet the industry’s public relations machine says emissions are falling. So what’s the disconnect?
The inventory did find that emissions from the natural gas production category, which includes well sites and the system transporting gas to processing plants, decreased from 2012-2013, due to fewer wells being drilled and an increase in the share that use “green completions” as required by a 2012 EPA rule. (The fact that the EPA’s requirements led to a decrease underscores the importance of regulation in addressing methane emissions, by the way.) But by focusing on only one segment of the oil and gas supply chain the oil and gas lobby are only giving you part of the story.
The bottom line is clear: Emissions for many key links in the supply chain have gone up, not down, and in some cases they have increased quite dramatically. The fact remains, methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are still too large and widespread .
We have the low cost technology at our disposal right now to fix this problem.
Cutting emissions in half would save our nation’s energy economy nearly $1 billion a year in wasted product, and cut the 20-year climate pollution equivalent of 90 coal-fired power plants. What’s more, a study by ICF International recently estimated that companies could cut methane emissions by 40 percent or more for about one third of one percent of the price of the gas they’re selling.
The case for action couldn’t be more clear.
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