Energy Exchange

Shell Canada launches methane technology pilot, and its timing is perfect.

This week, oil and gas giant Shell announced the launch of a technology pilot at one of its shale gas facilities in Canada that will continuously monitor methane levels and provide real-time leak detection to facility operators. This is a big deal and shows what can happen when companies, environmental groups and innovators work together to find solutions.

The pilot is a product of the Methane Detectors Challenge (MDC), a partnership involving EDF, eight oil and gas operators, technology developers and other experts that aims to spur next-generation solutions that can help the oil and gas industry find methane leaks more efficiently and effectively.

Shell is not alone. Other MDC participants include Statoil, which launched a pilot in Texas early this year, and Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which began a pilot in California in 2016. But the Shell project at Rocky Mountain House is the first MDC technology to be deployed in Canada, where the federal and key provincial governments are both developing regulations that will reduce oil and gas methane emissions.

The timing of this test in Alberta couldn’t be better. Read More »

Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged , , | Comments are closed

It’s time to harmonize New York’s natural gas and climate policies

New York is a national leader on energy and climate. The state’s Clean Energy Standard provides that half its electricity will come from renewables by 2030. The state has also committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s new plan to reduce methane pollution directs state agencies to develop policies to inventory emissions and identify strategies to reduce them.

These are ambitious goals that require proactive, flexible policies from New York regulators. However, embedded within New York Public Service Commission precedent and policies are preferences for utility decisions weighted in favor of natural gas utilization and infrastructure. These policies risk locking in that infrastructure at the expense of alternatives.

Dusting off old policies

One such policy, in place since 1989, incentivizes utilities that expand gas service into new areas by increasing the rate of shareholder return they’re allowed to earn on these investments. Others put the finger on the scale for increased utility investment in natural gas pipelines and delivery infrastructure. Read More »

Also posted in Natural Gas / Read 1 Response

Greater Flexibility, Efficiency in Gas Markets Requires New Standards

Markets for electricity and natural gas in the U.S. grew up independently of one another. The rules in one do not always align with the rules in the other, creating challenges for both operators and regulators. Cumbersome inefficiencies are becoming more evident with the rapid evolution of the electric system. With more gas-fired power plants coming online, and the growing requirement to balance intermittent renewable sources on the electric grid, there is now a pressing need to synchronize these two markets. Fixing the disconnects means the two systems need a better framework for doing business with one another. The place where the markets meet is gas generators’ use of the nation’s pipeline system.

Flexibility is Key

Pipelines primarily make money by selling firm (i.e., premium) transportation service. This type of service places value on one thing: moving gas from point A to point B. This market design means that pipelines have no commercial incentive to provide services that are actually needed by gas generators (they get paid regardless of how the capacity is used). The fuel supply needs of gas generators vary over the course of the day and therefore require pipelines to deliver gas on a more variable basis—a “smart” service far more valuable to power generators because they are paying for what they use, rather than for pipeline capacity. Furthermore, signing up for firm service is often too expensive for gas generators who don’t need the service on every day of the year and are not guaranteed recovery of these costs in the electric markets. Read More »

Also posted in General, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

6 Ways President Trump’s Energy Plan Doesn’t Add Up

By Jeremy Proville and Jonathan Camuzeaux 

Just 60 days into Trump’s presidency, his administration has wasted no time in pursuing efforts to lift oil and gas development restrictions and dismantle a range of environmental protections to push through his “America First Energy Plan.” An agenda that he claims will allow the country to, “take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.”

Putting aside the convenient roundness of this number, its sheer size makes the policy sound appealing; but, buyer beware. Behind the smoke and mirrors of this $50 trillion is an industry-commissioned Institute for Energy Research (IER) report that lacks serious economic rigor. The positive projections from lifting oil and gas restrictions come straight from the IER’s advocacy arm, the American Energy Alliance. Several economists reviewed the assessment and agreed: “This is not academic research and would never see the light of day in an academic journal.”

Here are six reasons Trump’s plan can’t deliver on its promises. Read More »

Also posted in Aliso Canyon, Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Natural Gas, Social Cost of Carbon / Comments are closed

Five Far Reaching Opportunities to Modernize California Natural Gas Policy

top5As he settles into his final two years as California’s longest-serving Governor, Jerry Brown has limited time to finalize his energy and climate policy legacy. Meanwhile, with a new crop of state legislators and two new appointees at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California has a fresh set of actors who will be actively questioning the way things are — and the way things should be.

While there are a lot of economic sectors that will be under the microscope for the next two years, for natural gas policy, these five key opportunities will likely have the most relevance. Read More »

Also posted in Air Quality, Aliso Canyon, California, Cap and Trade, Clean Energy, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Aliso Canyon Challenges Underscore Need to Realign California Energy Markets

rp_Aliso-Canyon.pngYesterday, the Southern California Gas Company filed for permission to resume operations through approved wells at its Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, saying it has completed key safety tests. The facility has been offline over the last year, after it sprung one of the largest gas leaks ever recorded.

Efforts to bring the facility online – and the challenges for the region’s electricity system if Aliso stays offline – underscore the need to address these issues from a broader, longer term perspective.

In addition to supplying gas to homes and businesses, the giant storage field served 17 major gas fired electric generating plants in the region. When a link as important as Aliso Canyon fails, the reliability implications for the electric grid are serious. Read More »

Also posted in Aliso Canyon, California, Natural Gas / Comments are closed