Energy Exchange

Industry momentum builds for nationwide methane regulation

Oil and gas companies in the United States are the latest to add their voices to the broad set of stakeholders supporting federal regulation of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector. These companies have a major responsibility to reduce methane emissions, a key step in the energy transition. This week in Houston, at CERAWeek, Shell, ExxonMobil and BP took important steps to support nationwide direct methane regulation, with Shell urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to not deregulate methane emissions and to even tighten standards.

There is more opportunity than ever before to regulate and reduce emissions in ways that work for industry and the environment. As ExxonMobil wrote, federal methane regulation “helps build stakeholder confidence, and provides long-term certainty for industry planning and investment while achieving climate related goals.”

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EDF and ExxonMobil discuss technology and regulation to reduce methane emissions

Since 2017, ExxonMobil has expanded its U.S. methane leak detection program, committed to its first global methane target, supported methane monitoring technology innovation and encouraged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate methane emissions at new and existing sources. Although Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and ExxonMobil are not always aligned on certain important issues, the organizations are working together to understand and reduce methane emissions. Ben Ratner, senior director with EDF+Business, sat down with Matt Kolesar, regulatory manager at ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy affiliate, to discuss the company’s perspective on why methane is such a key issue for the industry and how technology and regulation can accelerate industry’s progress.

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Challenge, opportunity as China begins to tackle fossil fuel methane emissions

By Hanling Yang and Stefan Schwietzke

Even as China races to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and conventional air pollutants from across its growing economy, new concerns are arising over methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas. The latest United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) Special Report confirms that deep reductions in emissions of non-CO2 pollutants, particularly methane, are also essential to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

Among China’s top sources of methane emissions are coal, gas and oil operations, which also offer the quickest and most effective opportunities for reduction of this pollution. China has a huge opportunity to tackle methane from these sectors, but better accounting of these emissions is needed if government and industry are going to solve the problem.

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Fixing regulatory pitfalls could reduce methane emissions

A version of this piece originally ran in Scientific American.

Methane has long been recognized as a potent greenhouse gas, but preventing its escape from industrial facilities has only recently become a prominent goal. The oil and gas industry, for example, is a large emitter, and research (including some by scientists at the Environmental Defense Fund) has documented that far more methane seeps out of wells, pipelines, valves and other points in the supply chain than energy companies and official emissions inventories report.

This revelation has people worried—people like me, who are concerned about the health and future of humanity. And people like the CEOs of global oil and gas companies, including BP and ExxonMobil, who have voluntarily pledged to reduce methane emissions. Increasingly, investors, public officials and neighbors living near oil and gas infrastructure have become worried, too.

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API attacks on methane safeguards contradict science and drag the industry backwards

By Rosalie Winn

Methane is a powerful pollutant responsible for more than 25 percent of climate change we experience today—and the oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions. Recent scientific evidence only underscores the importance of addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.

Unfortunately, at the request of the American Petroleum Institute (API) and others in industry, the Trump administration has issued a proposal to dramatically weaken common sense standards that address oil and gas emissions, allowing for an increase in pollution. In addition, reports suggest that EPA is moving forward with a second proposal that could entirely remove the direct regulation of methane in the oil and gas sector, which would fly in the face of the well-established scientific record documenting the harms of this powerful pollutant and would disregard the substantial amount of pollution emitted from oil and gas sources.

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Satellites become valuable new tool for governments, industry to cut emissions

For years, people used satellites to observe the Earth’s climate. Now, orbital sensing offers a crucial new way to protect it, by giving us new abilities to identify, measure, and ultimately verify cuts in emissions of methane – a highly potent greenhouse gas.

Two new pieces of research led by EDF scientists demonstrate the growing potential of space-based monitoring tools, and offer a preview of things to come when EDF launches its own dedicated methane satellite in 2021.

Offshore Flaring in Mexico

First is a paper published this week in Geophysical Research Letters, explaining how researchers used space-based readings to calculate the enormous volume of natural gas being burned off (or “flared”) by oil and gas platforms in the Southern Gulf of Mexico. From 2005 and 2017, data from NASA’s Aura satellite show that operators flared as much as 710 billion cubic feet of gas per year.

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