Category Archives: Methane

America Agrees That It’s Time to Act on Methane Pollution From Oil and Gas

There’s not much in Washington these days that Americans can agree on. But a new poll released last week by the American Lung Association found that a large majority of voters would support EPA regulations requiring the oil and natural gas industry to cut methane pollution in half by 2020.

This comes as EPA nears a decision – likely in the coming weeks — on whether to tackle the growing problem of unregulated methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. It’s a big decision. Reducing methane pollution from the oil and gas sector by half would save close to $1 billion a year in wasted energy and, over a 20-year time frame, cut climate pollution equivalent to closing about 90 coal-fired power plants.

The new poll of 1,000 voters, conducted by a bipartisan team of pollsters, also shows that public support for the Environmental Protection Agency and for strong clean air laws are as high as ever. GOP leaders should take note as they take over in Congress: voters believe, by a 3-to-1 margin, that the EPA, not Congress, should be setting pollution standards. That includes a 2-to-1 margin among Republican voters. So while the polluter lobby clamors for more political interference from Congress, the public wants the non-partisan EPA to be left alone to do what it is supposed to do.

The reasons that Americans support these policies are not new. Read More »

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No Easy Answers When Disposing of Oil and Gas Wastewater

We all want easy answers. And often times the harder the question, the easier we want the answer to be.

Source: Nicholas A. Tonelli Flickr

Increased natural gas use, for example, can help decrease U.S. greenhouse gas emissions as it has a lower carbon content compared to coal or oil. Natural gas also can help transition our energy mix to more renewable energy sources. This is because properly designed, gas-fired generation can respond quickly to pick up the slack if the wind suddenly dies or clouds unexpectedly roll in. But, these benefits mean nothing if the communities where gas is produced suffer air and water pollution, or if methane – a powerful global warming pollutant that is the primary ingredient in natural gas – is allowed to leak into the atmosphere unchecked.

We all should be worried about global warming and the role that sloppy oil and gas production and distribution practices contribute to the problem. But communities where oil and gas development is taking place are also worried about how oil and gas drilling is impacting their water supplies. This is a key issue and one aspect of the groundwater contamination concerns, rightfully gaining attention in these communities, is how and where toxic wastewater is disposed of that is produced along with oil and gas. But here, too, the answers don’t come easy. Read More »

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Methane Emissions Just Like Oil Spills in the Sky

Out of sight, out of mind. This certainly applies to methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

That’s because methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas and the primary constituent of natural gas, is invisible to the naked eye.

And it’s one reason methane emissions, while a significant threat to our environment, don’t get the attention they should from policymakers or the public when compared to, say, conspicuous oil spills.

But we have the technology to make the invisible visible. As you’ll see in the video below, fugitive methane emissions look very much like an oil spill in the sky.

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New Study Confirms the Need for National Methane Policy

1At a time when the oil and gas industry claims that methane emissions from their well sites are coming down, here’s a study that adds scientific weight to the argument that emissions may actually be HIGHER than they claim.

A new study by researchers at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, published today in Environmental Science and Technology, took a look at two key processes in oil and gas production – pneumatic controllers and liquids unloading – and concluded that average methane emissions from pneumatic controllers are 17 percent higher than the estimates industry has been citing, and total emissions from these devices may be more than twice as high as they’ve been saying. According to the UT study, together, pneumatic controllers and liquids unloadings account for 40 percent of total methane emissions from oil and gas production.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, over 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming pollutant. Unnecessary venting and leaking of methane – the key ingredient in the natural gas that we use to heat our homes, cook our food, and power many of our industries  – waste a precious national energy resource. Colorado and a few other states are already taking steps to reduce this waste through sensible regulations that cover oil and gas producers, and within two weeks the federal Environmental Protection Agency will announce what it intends to do about this problem. This latest UT study is further evidence that methane leakage is a national problem and national regulation is urgently needed to reduce this powerful pollutant and set a level playing field for the over 6,000 oil and gas production companies in business in the United States today. Read More »

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Western Governors: Cutting Oil, Gas Methane Good for States

rp_frackingwyo_92689731_rf_0-300x300.jpgLast weekend the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) joined a growing chorus of groups recognizing the importance of action to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. In addition to being the primary component of the natural gas sold at market, methane is a potent heat-trapping pollutant that is responsible for about 25 percent of current warming patterns. As the resolution states:

            "Western Governors recognize the environmental benefits to reducing methane emissions and the opportunities for beneficial use of the natural resource.”

Western governors stepping up on this issue sends the strong message that state leaders and regulators recognize the need to cut emissions of a potent climate pollutant and stop waste of a finite natural resource. The western region is a major center of domestic oil and gas production and these governors understand action to reduce methane emissions means more natural gas will stay in the pipe, benefitting end users and state economies. The west is also already seeing the impacts of a changed climate through droughts and wildfires, again pointing to the need to address this potent climate pollutant. Read More »

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Federal Proposal to Update Natural Gas Transportation Market Would Benefit Environment

pipeline Source Maureen flickrHow much does the design of America’s energy market affect the environment? More than one might expect.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency responsible for regulating the wholesale natural gas and electricity markets, issued a proposed policy statement designed to encourage pipeline operators to replace their leakiest equipment: compressor stations. Reciprocating compressors are an essential part of the nation’s gas delivery system. They help move natural gas through cross-country pipelines to utilities that then deliver the fuel to its end customer. A challenge, however, is that aging compressor stations are more likely to leak as they help pump the gas to its final destination, and hundreds of these units have not been updated since the 1940’s. These leak-prone units are one of the largest sources of methane emissions —a potent greenhouse gas that can also cause explosions in some cases.

The cost to replace just one “vintage” unit can be tens of millions of dollars — one reason pipeline operators have been slow to update this equipment. Fortunately, FERC’s new proposal would provide a pathway for pipelines operators to recover the significant cost of refitting their systems with modern, safer, and more efficient compressors. Read More »

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