Methane pollution from the oil and gas industry is a serious problem for our climate and communities, but it’s one most people aren’t even aware of. That’s because, while methane is a powerful pollutant, it is colorless, odorless and invisible to the naked eye.
But residents of Southern California’s Porter Ranch neighborhood had their eyes opened wide to the methane problem when a natural gas storage well in nearby Aliso Canyon ruptured and created a massive leak right next to their homes – an incident detected by residents in October from the putrid smell of mercaptan, an additive utilities use to more easily detect natural gas leaks.
Natural gas is made mostly of methane, and when it is released unburned, it has a warming power over 84 times that of carbon dioxide over 20 years. So, leaking or intentionally emitting unburned natural gas – which happens not just through malfunctions but often during routine production and transportation of oil and gas – can do major climate damage. The California Air Resources Board estimates that Aliso Canyon is pumping out methane at about 50,000 kg per hour, or about 62 million standard cubic feet, per day – that’s the same 20-year greenhouse gas impact as the daily emissions from 7 million cars.
Now, on day 48 in a very uncertain timeline of the one of the largest U.S. natural gas leaks ever recorded, infrared cameras are giving us a true glimpse at the size of this man-made methane volcano. Looking at side-by-side images of Aliso Canyon taken on Dec. 9 using an everyday camera and one equipped with infrared technology reveals just how blind we are to this kind of pollution:
A great thing happened today for the environment and people of California. On the very day we released new maps measuring methane leaking from natural gas lines under Los Angeles-area streets, the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) announced they would begin publishing their own maps showing the locations of leaks they find on their system.
It is a positive move that brings the company a big step closer to complying with the California law requiring them to publish not only the whereabouts of known leaks, but also the amount of methane escaping (which their newly announced maps do not). The public has a right to know where and how much harmful air pollution is being emitted by SoCalGas and any other company in California.
Methane from oil and gas operations is a serious climate risk, but also a ripe opportunity to make a huge dent in overall greenhouse emissions. This past week, one state took a big, and long-awaited, step to address the challenge.
While we wait for the Environmental Protection Agency to release draft federal methane rules this summer, the California Air Resources Board has just released a draft of the most comprehensive and forward thinking regulations to cut methane pollution from oil and gas yet.
While the April 22 proposal still needs work – such as in the area of how often equipment needs to be inspected and how best to reduce venting associated with well unloading and other activities – it’s a big and fundamental step in the right direction. It has the potential to deliver what the rest of the country needs – comprehensive equipment standards on new and existing sources for both oil and gas operations, and enhanced leak detection and repair requirements across the methane value chain.
But the benefits will be felt closest to home first. Read More
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.
By: Tim O'Connor and Shira Silver
Californians struggling with high gas prices should feel optimistic about the future. A new memo by economists from EDF and Chuck Mason, a prominent economist at the University of Wyoming, demonstrates that policies established to reduce emissions and help the state reach its climate change goals also help to arm consumers at the pump.
The Low Carbon Fuel Standard, cap and trade, and other complementary policies such as Governor Brown’s Zero Emission Vehicle program and national Renewable Portfolio Standards seek to integrate lower or zero-carbon fuels into the energy market in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas pollution.
As our memo explains, in California these efforts also help to increase the market share for alternative, lower-carbon fuels. Between now and 2020, alternatives may grow to occupy between 15 and 24 percent of the market, creating new jobs and addressing the large market share that oil companies have in California.
Currently six oil companies control 94 percent of the fuels market in California. Through a set of mergers and other factors they have developed a strong lock on fuel in the state, and more specifically on consumers’ pocketbooks at the pump.
This commentary originally appeared on EDF's California Dream 2.0 blog.
For a window into two vastly different visions of our state’s future, take a look at the comments filed last week as part of the AB 32 Scoping Plan update process. The 2008 Scoping Plan lays out the approach that California will take to achieve its goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and this is the first 5 year update.
EDF’s comments reflect what most Californians have already asked for – a laser focus on expanding emission reductions and providing ample clean energy opportunities for businesses throughout the state.
- Increasing emission reductions from vehicles, goods movement and the agriculture sector;
- Developing diversified low-carbon fuels that yield cost reductions;
- Integrating clean energy and energy efficiency through programs like “time-of-use” pricing and On-Bill Repayment;
- And, extending the cap-and-trade program and low carbon fuel standard beyond 2020;
All of the opportunities outlined by EDF aim to fulfill the Scoping Plan’s mission: achieving the maximum technologically feasible reductions in greenhouse gas pollution in a cost-effective way.
Last week, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), along with eight other environmental advocacy organizations, announced the launch of the Environmental NGO Network on Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) – a collaborative effort to ensure domestic and international policies and regulations allowing for CCS ensure that the highest standards are met for public safety, atmospheric and environmental protection.
Right now, CCS projects are being developed by some of the world’s biggest energy and oil companies, and international negotiations are looking to provide carbon credit opportunities for use in carbon control regulations. The CCS Network will serve as a communications medium between EDF and other member environmental organizations as we work towards a responsible CCS industry, enabling the world’s top experts from the NGO community to contribute and share ideas.
New CCS projects represent an opportunity for long term carbon reductions, though they must adhere to best operational and environmental standards to enable long-term success. The CCS Network will work together to find common ground on CCS-related efforts and work toward ensuring responsible development.
For more information about the network, visit: www.engonetwork.org.
Posted in General Tagged CCS