Energy Exchange

EPA’s updated annual oil and gas methane inventory doesn’t convey entire picture

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual update to the 2016 U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGI) yesterday, showing a slight decrease in total greenhouse gas emissions from 2015 to 2016.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas and the main constituent of natural gas, is responsible for roughly a quarter of global warming we see today. The GHGI estimates that 2016 methane emissions from the oil and gas industry were 8.37 million metric tons, down just over one percent from 2015 levels.

This decrease is misleading – it’s too slight a dip to indicate that industry is getting a better handle on methane. Studies also suggest that the inventory misses vast amounts of emissions from abnormal process conditions, or super-emitters.

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National Academy of Sciences urges collective research improvements to track U.S. methane emissions

This week the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS), the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization, issued a report calling for a stepped-up nationwide research effort to develop a gridded and verifiable inventory of U.S. methane emissions.

The NAS report, sponsored by the U.S. EPA, Department of Energy (DOE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA, noted atmospheric methane has risen dramatically in the 20th century, hitting a spike in 2016 that has tripled since pre-industrial times.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about 25% of current global warming.

The report discusses all the major U.S. sources of anthropogenic methane emissions, including petroleum and natural gas systems, agriculture, landfills, and coal mines. Researchers acknowledged the rapid increase in natural gas production in the U.S. during the past decade has triggered the need for a better understanding of the energy industry’s methane footprint. The NAS report classified oil and gas as one of three primary research priorities for the future, along rice farming, and livestock.

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Oil and gas front group fails to read fine print on climate pollution…again

Last week, EDF released a new analysis, based on current, peer-reviewed science, that estimates methane emissions from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas sites are nearly five times higher than what industry reports to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. If you look strictly at emissions from unconventional well sites – emissions are twice as high as what companies report.

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

EPA inventory shows U.S. oil & gas methane emissions remain a major problem

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a draft of its annual update to the U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGI). The draft, which now includes emissions data for 2016, estimates oil and gas operators released 8.1 million metric tons (MMT) of methane of the course of the year through leaks, venting, and incomplete combustion—a mere one percent reduction from 2015.

EPA’s estimates of annual oil and gas methane emissions are likewise essentially flat from 2005 to 2016, showing a three percent increase. While some industry groups like to highlight the 15 percent decrease in emissions from 1990 to 2016, this ignores the fact that emission estimates have hovered around 8.1 MMT for the last dozen years, having roughly the same near-term climate impact every year as the emissions of 167 coal-fired power plants. Recent science has also suggested that methane is even more potent over twenty years than previously thought; the newer science suggests these emissions pack 14 percent more warming power, and are equivalent to more than 190 coal-fired power plants.

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NASA study underscores urgency of solving the global methane problem

A new NASA study suggests methane emissions from fossil fuels may be responsible for half of the recent rise in global atmospheric methane concentrations. While we’ve known for some time that methane levels have been increasing worldwide, it hasn’t been clear why. The research narrows uncertainty as to both the sources and trends influencing global methane emissions.

According to the study, which was published last week in the journal Nature Communications, methane emissions from fossil fuels are rising at a rate of 12 to 19 million metric tons a year. Read More »

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What’s new for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program?

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posted the 2016 Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) data online. While there are positive trends in the type of data included and the ways that data are measured, the general picture is of an industry with many remaining opportunities to reduce emissions.

The GHGRP is an emissions reporting program for large facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalents (MT CO2e) of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The data provided by the GHGRP are invaluable for understanding the sectors and sources responsible for GHG emissions and can guide the design of effective policies for reducing emissions.

Additionally, EPA has been incorporating GHGRP data into the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, an annual report that estimates U.S. GHG emissions. In 2016, 7,631 facilities reported emitting almost 3 billion MT CO2e GHGs. After power plants, which are responsible for 63% of reported emissions, the oil and gas (O&G) sector is the largest source of GHG emissions. This year there are three major changes to the reporting protocols for oil and gas facilities. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed