Energy Exchange

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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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 »

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Two fundamental EPA climate programs survive EPA cuts, but budget still required to track and mitigate U.S. emissions

The federal administration’s proposed budget cuts to the EPA are devastating. Nearly all climate-related programs are proposed to be cut or greatly reduced, including the popular ENERGY STAR program.

Yet two critical climate EPA programs have maintained partial funding in the current proposal – the Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) and Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP).  These programs provide critical reports each year outlining U.S. man-made greenhouse emissions across the country. These informative reports are vital to the energy sector and our regional climate initiatives and must be preserved by this and future federal administrations.

If we are not measuring and tracking our annual output of greenhouse gases, our ability to verifiably reduce our emissions becomes severely impaired. Our country – along with public and industry stakeholders across the work –needs access to this U.S. data each year in order to understand patterns and trends in greenhouse gas emissions.  Transparent reporting of GHG data can help hold emitters publicly accountable and facilitate emission reductions. Read More »

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More than ever, EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Program is Vital to Understanding Methane Emissions

In its 2017 GHGI Inventory, published last week, EPA estimates 2015 methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas industry were 8.1 million metric tons,which is enough to fulfill the domestic heating needs for over 5 million homes.

In addition to estimating 2015 emissions, EPA has revised their estimates of previous years’ emissions based on new scientific data. The lower estimates compared to the 2016 Inventory is almost entirely due to new accounting methods – the actual decrease in emissions from 2014 to 2015 was only 2%, and this was due to fewer well completions resulting from lower oil and gas prices.

EPA still has room for improvement

Although the estimate of oil and gas emissions went down in this year’s report, it should not be viewed as a final answer since EPA plans to make further improvements including better accounting of super-emitters, which science has shown to be a major source of emissions. These changes likely would counteract the decreases in other emission sources. Read More »

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