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What the world’s largest provider of oilfield services has to say about innovation and regulation

Here is something you don’t hear every day: oil and gas methane regulations can reinforce innovation and leadership. Numerous new methods to reduce oil and gas methane emissions are being developed; and regulators, environmentalists, oil companies and innovators are working together to craft a new way for innovation to be recognized and rewarded.

I interviewed Drew Pomerantz of Schlumberger, the world’s largest provider of oilfield services, about what new methods and technologies are available to reduce oil and gas methane emissions, what their impact might be, and what is needed to realize that potential.

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Posted in Fourth Wave, Methane, Methane regulatons / Comments are closed

Fixing regulatory pitfalls could reduce methane emissions

A version of this piece originally ran in Scientific American.

Methane has long been recognized as a potent greenhouse gas, but preventing its escape from industrial facilities has only recently become a prominent goal. The oil and gas industry, for example, is a large emitter, and research (including some by scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund) has documented that far more methane seeps out of wells, pipelines, valves and other points in the supply chain than energy companies and official emissions inventories report.

This revelation has people worried—people like me, who are concerned about the health and future of humanity. And people like the CEOs of global oil and gas companies, including BP and ExxonMobil, who have voluntarily pledged to reduce methane emissions. Increasingly, investors, public officials and neighbors living near oil and gas infrastructure have become worried, too.

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Shell becomes latest oil and gas company to test smart methane sensors

This week, the oil and gas giant Shell took a positive step toward addressing methane emissions. The company announced a new technology trial at a wellsite in Alberta, Canada, where it is piloting a specially designed laser to continuously monitor emissions of methane, a powerful pollutant known to leak from oil and gas equipment.

The move by Shell is a glimpse into the future and demonstrates growing market interest in smart, sensor-based methane detection technology. Shell’s project joins a similar field test already underway in Texas, operated by the Norwegian producer Statoil, and a California utility pilot run by Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

Each of these deployments is promising, but the ultimate test will be broad-scale adoption of innovations that generate actual methane reductions. Read More »

Posted in Gas to Clean, Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged | Comments are closed

Time to Tell the EPA What Works in Methane Mitigation

methane_technicianThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to regulate existing sources of methane from the oil and gas industry, and it is asking for information from the methane mitigation industry to make sure the rule’s approach and requirements account for recent innovation. The EPA’s announcement comprises the U.S. portion of the North American commitment to cut methane by up to 45% from the continent’s oil and gas industry by 2025. Existing sources in the oil and gas industry make up over 90% of the sector’s emissions, which contribute over 9 million tons of methane pollution annually.

The opportunity is open now to tell the EPA what works in methane mitigation.

Emission standards for existing sources of methane will not only reduce greenhouse gases but could also create new markets and customers for the growing mitigation industry. The regulation will likely start with one or more approved work practices to find and fix methane leaks, describing a technology or group of technologies that must be used in a certain manner. For example, EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for new and modified sources of methane required the use of optical gas imaging cameras or “Method 21” instruments. With far more existing sources of methane than new or modified sources, being part of an approved work practice for existing sources would open up a significant market opportunity. Read More »

Posted in General, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Regulation as a Platform for Innovation

To get anything accomplished, you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One unsung story buried in last week’s release of EPA’s new source methane rules may make good options even better – driving innovation and offering industry more options to meet the methane challenge.

The new rules target a pervasive problem: methane – the primary component of natural gas – leaking throughout the oil and gas value chain. Methane emissions represent a waste of saleable resources, a reputational risk, and a contributor to both poor local air quality and climate change.

Under the EPA’s framework, oil and gas operators must take steps to minimize  emissions from new and modified sources – from finding and fixing equipment leaks to swapping out equipment to reduce methane vented from pneumatic controllers and pumps,. Companies in Colorado working to comply with the state’s similar rule have reported that putting similar measures in place are cost-effective, even generating positive returns from selling the captured gas.

But what should an agency do when the solutions available now are reasonable but not perfect? Existing strategies don’t monitor all the time—only a few days a year. So leaks and malfunctions can be missed, or leak for months before they are fixed. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Coming Soon: Solutions for Finding Methane Leaks Faster

porter-ranch-aliso-canyon-methane-gas-leak-3-1020x610After more than four months of spewing potent methane pollution, the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak has finally been plugged. But now the state of California and the utility that owns the site, SoCalGas, are left with the responsibility of ensuring a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.

While Aliso Canyon has captured the attention of the nation, it’s important to remember that there are smaller—and far more prevalent—leaks happening throughout the country’s oil and gas supply chain every day. In fact, those emissions add up to more than 7 million metric tons of methane pollution every year.  That equals over $1 billion worth of wasted natural gas at 2015 prices. Read More »

Posted in Aliso Canyon, General, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed