Energy Exchange

What’s increasing global methane levels? New research examines role of U.S. shale gas.

By Stefan Schwietzke and Steven Hamburg

A decade of extensive scientific research has demonstrated that methane emissions from the oil and gas supply chain have been substantially underestimated and has placed pressure on governments and industry to act. Because of methane’s potency and the feasibility and cost efficiency for reducing emissions of it, methane presents among the most powerful opportunities we have to slow the rate of planetary warming in our lifetimes.

Still, methane research continues — the more precisely we can identify global emission sources and quantify their volume, the more precise and effective mitigation efforts will be. And as this challenge is examined by different teams with different methods, we sometime have to address discrepancies among the results. Such is the case with two new papers that examine the proportion of rising atmospheric levels of methane associated with shale gas production in the United States. We know oil and gas methane emissions are higher than previously thought — and the scientific debate surrounding these papers is about where the global increases in emissions are coming from.

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Posted in Methane / Comments are closed

How oil & gas states did (and did not) protect land and water in 2019

By Adam Peltz and Nichole Saunders

Regulating the day-to-day details of an oil and gas operation can be a complex task, with both regulators and operators working hard to prevent leaks, explosions and other threats to worker safety, community health and the environment. As we learn more about technical advancements in the oilfield as well as risks from various aspects of production, it is vital that the regulations requiring best practices are kept up to date.

EDF believes this process of continuous improvement is foundational for protecting land, water and communities from development-related impacts. That’s why we track what states are up to on a consistent basis. Building on our review of state progress toward this goal in 2018, we’ve gathered up the big changes states made this past year and assessed the trends.

Here are the big things we saw in 2019.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, produced water / Comments are closed

New study finds elevated health risks due to pollution from oil and gas activity in Colorado

By Ananya Roy and Tammy Thompson

As production of oil and gas in the United States has expanded, it’s no longer uncommon to see rigs and well pads nestled in communities. For example, Weld County in Colorado ranked fourth in the nation for population growth in 2017, and has issued thousands of new permits for oil and gas extraction in the past few years. Emissions from the intensive energy development sprouting along highways, in fields and within sight of homes, playgrounds and school yards has led to concerns about rising pollution from this industry and the subsequent health risks.

Communities are concerned about all of the emissions from these operations but focus on the brew of volatile organic compounds that include benzene, toluene and ethyl benzene, since some are known carcinogens or have established impacts on the brain, lungs and blood. VOC emissions, however, vary considerably between different processes. Well sites and changing weather conditions either spread or concentrate the pollution over different distances and directions, suggesting that intermittent measurement campaigns are inadequate to capture population exposures and risks.

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Posted in Air Quality, Colorado, Methane / Comments are closed

Two years after Hurricane Maria, community leader stresses the need for long-lasting solutions

Cristobal Jimenez

Cristobal Jimenez is a community leader in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He is one of the many survivors of Hurricane Maria. Recently, Cristobal and members of his community have been working to find long-lasting solutions to their energy challenges, effective ways to address the needs of their families and preparations for the future in the wake of superstorms.

Below is an edited version of the conversation we had with him.

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Posted in Clean Energy, Puerto Rico / Comments are closed

EPA’s proposal to rollback methane rules ignores scientific evidence, will lead to 5 million tons of methane pollution

By Rosalie Winn and Jessica Christy

Last week, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler proposed to entirely eliminate regulation of methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. He also proposed removing all federal regulation for both methane and harmful volatile organic compounds from pipelines and other midstream facilities.

The proposal is an attempt to prevent any federal oversight of pollution from more than 850,000 older oil and gas facilities across the country, while removing additional safeguards for new sources in major swaths of the oil and gas supply chain.

The proposal targets previous rules EPA adopted to address air pollution from oil and gas facilities built or updated after 2015. These “new source” rules include commonsense requirements to cut both methane and VOC emissions across the upstream (production, gathering and boosting, and processing) and midstream (transmission and storage) segments of the oil and gas supply chain. While companies have been complying with these policies for years, the current proposal seeks to:

  1. Eliminate all methane standards across the oil and gas supply chain.
  2. Exempt facilities in the transmission and storage segment from any federal standards.
  3. Prevent any future regulation of pollution from “existing” sources built before 2015.

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Posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

New climate law, new opportunities for gas supply planning in New York

By Natalie Karas and Erin Murphy

New York recently enacted one of the most ambitious climate targets in the country. The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requires an 85% reduction in statewide greenhouse emissions by 2050 (from 1990 levels). All state agencies — including the New York Public Service Commission, which oversees utility companies — must now assess whether every decision they issue will, or will not, interfere with those emissions goals.

Meeting this bold new standard will depend heavily on the state’s natural gas utilities. That’s because residential and commercial heating are major contributors to the state’s greenhouse gas footprint. Unfortunately, utility companies today are continuing to rely on old assumptions, programs and ideas when making multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments that will last for decades. If allowed to continue, these investments will significantly hinder the state from meeting its climate goals, while locking in expensive and potentially unnecessary infrastructure for decades to come.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas, New York / Comments are closed