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A rare opportunity to improve the health of Mexico’s environment and economy

This post originally appeared in Spanish on El Universal.

Not often is a pollutant referred to as an environmental and economic opportunity. But that’s exactly what methane is for countries looking for cost-effective climate solutions and a way to prepare for the 21st century energy economy. And it’s especially important for Mexico right now, as changes in energy laws have opened the doors to a slew of new exploration projects that could reshape Mexico’s oil and gas industry and boost economic growth through 2025.

Methane is the main ingredient of natural gas. When burned, natural gas emits less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels. But when it escapes unburned, as it does across the global oil and gas industry, methane is 80 per cent more powerful a heat-trapper than carbon dioxide in the short term. Methane also contributes to local air pollution, including smog, and the health impacts that come with it. It’s not just countries that are aware of this. A growing number of investors and energy companies are responding to the reputational threat of uncontrolled methane emissions.

Released last week, the International Energy Agency’s latest World Energy Outlook articulates the methane challenge very powerfully. Its analysis shows that with current technologies the oil and gas industry can drastically reduce methane emissions by 75 percent worldwide – and that up to two thirds of those reductions can be realized at zero net cost. What’s more, the IEA says that just the cost-effective reductions would have the same climate impact in 2100 as immediately closing all the coal plants in China.  Read More »

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Exxon joins counterparts in new call for increased global methane action, including regulations

By Ben Ratner and Drew Nelson

In spite of the anti-environmental furor of the Trump administration, 2017 has been a year of encouraging commitments by a growing number of global oil and gas industry leaders – including American oil giant Exxon Mobil – that understand methane emissions is a key business challenge. Methane is a fast-acting climate pollutant and unchecked emissions from the oil and gas sector undermine the credibility of natural gas in the transition to a lower carbon future.

The latest milestone is a commitment by BP, Exxon, Shell and other global energy companies to a set of principles to significantly reduce the amount of methane emitted across the natural gas supply chain. Environmental Defense Fund helped develop the foundational principles alongside the eight companies and other members including the International Energy Agency, UN Environment, the Rocky Mountain Institute and Indian non-profit group TERI.

Similar, yet distinct from other industry commitments made in connection with the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative or the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (see here and here), all of these initiatives are evidence that forward-thinkers understand the stakes and see the long-term business value in addressing methane emissions. Read More »

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Methane waste: New Mexico’s multi-million dollar opportunity to increase funding and cut pollution

A new analysis is taking a closer looking at the scope of New Mexico’s methane problem and the financial impact it's having on the state’s taxpayers.

We have known for some time that New Mexico had a problem with methane waste and pollution from the state’s oil and gas industry. A 2015 report from business consulting firm ICF International found that more methane gas was wasted from oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands in New Mexico than any other state. And the infamous hot spot of methane pollution over the state’s San Juan Basin is the highest concentration of this pollution found anywhere in the U.S. But a new report is providing the first-ever comprehensive, statewide view of methane emissions and waste from New Mexico’s oil and gas industry.

This new analysis, which is based on industry-reported inventory data and an extensive review of recent scientific research, estimates that the excessive leaking, venting and flaring of natural gas has resulted in New Mexico’s oil and gas industry emitting 570,000 tons of methane each year. Read More »

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Methane management is risk management

By Kate Gaumond, Analyst, EDF+Business 

When I worked on the trading floor at Goldman Sachs, one of the major services we provided our corporate clients was risk management. Sitting on the commodity desk, we bought and sold financial products that allowed the world’s biggest consumers and producers to manage their exposure to the often fluctuating price of natural resources like aluminum, crude oil, and natural gas. Companies take action to manage this price risk in order to provide long-term stability for the company and its investors.

Now as a member of the EDF+Business team, I focus on a different kind of risk: climate risk. And just like financial risk, it needs to be managed for the long-term benefit of all stakeholders involved.

Methane Risk is Climate Risk

Investors are catching on, recognizing that information about climate risk is vital to maintaining robust portfolios of well-managed companies. And for investors to be serious on climate, they have to be serious not just on carbon dioxide, but on methane as well. Read More »

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Whether you love or hate natural gas, stopping methane emissions now is crucial

The International Energy Agency’s new 2017 World Energy Outlook contains the agency’s strongest language yet about the urgent need to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, and the huge opportunities that exist to do so.

Some have taken issue with IEA projections on the overall role of natural gas, suggesting they are beyond what is environmentally sustainable. Others think IEA is underestimating growth potential. Whatever you believe the trajectory for gas is — or should be — the benefits of reducing methane emissions are both enormous and irrefutable.

The good news: IEA estimates the industry can reduce their worldwide emissions by 75 percent – and that up to two thirds of those reductions can be realized at zero net cost. “These emissions are not the only anthropogenic emissions of methane,” says the report, “but they are likely to be among the cheapest to abate." Read More »

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New Texas Permian oil and gas flaring report reveals excessive gas waste and major gaps in operator flaring practices

As companies flock to West Texas’ Permian Basin to cheaply drill for and extract oil and gas, some operators are flooding the night sky with natural gas flares, polluting the air with unhealthy and climate-altering pollutants, and wasting copious amounts of this important, domestic energy resource.

The Permian Basin, which stretches across 75,000 square miles in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, is in the midst of one of the largest energy booms of the century. An estimated 60-70 billion barrels of recoverable oil is located in the area, which is worth roughly $3.3 trillion at current prices, according to IHS Markit. Oil isn’t the only resource in abundant supply. EIA estimates that operators in the Permian are producing 7.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. But a rush to produce higher value oil has some Permian drillers simply flaring the gas instead of investing in gathering and pipeline infrastructure.

A new EDF flaring report, released this week, has uncovered a wide discrepancy between flaring rates among the top 15 oil and gas producers working in the Texas Permian Basin. Some of the oil and gas producers studied in the report are wasting close to 10 percent of their produced gas due to flaring practices, highlighting the fact that the oil and gas industry continues to struggle to control natural gas waste. Read More »

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