How do you detect a colorless, odorless gas? It’s an important question especially when that invisible gas is as damaging as what comprises oil and gas pollution. We are talking about hazardous air pollutants (benzene), ozone precursors (volatile organic compounds), and greenhouse gases like methane – a gas that is more than 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide to the climate in the short term.
Widely available tools like infrared cameras and hand-held hydrocarbon detectors are very effective at detecting leaks from oil and gas equipment, but new technologies and new science are always welcome.
That’s what makes a new paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology exciting. Led by experts from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and co-authored by EDF’s David Lyon, this study uses a new technique to identify and measure methane emissions at oil and gas facilities.
If you send a bucket to the well, you make sure it doesn’t have a hole in it first. You’re careful that the new milk carton isn’t seeping all over your refrigerator shelf. And you know that a dripping water pipe can mean big problems if you don’t get after it quickly. Leaks are messy, wasteful, and often costly.
That’s why sensible people avoid leaks when they can, and fix them when they need to.
And it’s why oil and gas companies should be fixing thousands of leaks that are letting at least $1.7 billion dollars’ worth of natural gas vent or leak from their well sites, pipelines, and local gas delivery systems every year. The waste is enough natural gas to heat five million homes a year.
It’s bad enough to waste a valuable commodity. What’s worse is that unburned natural gas, which is mostly methane, has a potent effect on the climate, packing over 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide over the first twenty years of a methane molecule in the atmosphere. And that leaking methane is frequently accompanied by smog-forming pollution. Read More
Late last week Wyoming air regulators took a second crack at a proposed rule to fix a serious ozone pollution problem in the state’s Upper Green River Basin. To use a baseball analogy, this rule designed to reduce pollution from the oil and gas industry, is a solid double.
This proposal improves upon a version released in June. The updated rule extends inspection requirements to compressor stations to capture more of the leaks that create air pollution and the methane that is the industry’s main product. And it eliminates provisions that—in some cases–would have allowed companies to remove certain devices from well sites that we know reduce pollution.
Both changes are improvements that EDF and local allies have advocated for and the Mead Administration deserves praise for leadership in this area. Once finalized and implemented, this rule will form the backbone of the state’s plan to clean up the air in and around Pinedale, Wyoming, that has become dangerously polluted by harmful emissions from the oil and gas industry. Read More
Revolutionary paradigm shifts often require cohesive development of many moving parts, some of which advance more quickly than others in practice. Germany’s revolutionary Energiewende (or “energy transition”) is no exception. Set to achieve nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Germany’s Energiewende is one of the most aggressive clean energy declarations in the world. While growth of Germany’s installed renewables capacity has been explosive in recent years, optimization measures designed for Energiewende have manifested at a relatively slow pace.
Germany already has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, but as implementation of Energiewende continues, optimization will be key to its future success. This will require better sources of backup generation to accommodate the intermittency of wind and solar, a dynamic energy market that ensures fair compensation for this backup, and a more flexible, resilient grid enabled by smart grid technologies to fully optimize demand side resources and a growing renewable energy portfolio. Read More
Earlier this week the Center for American Progress held an event to raise awareness about the impacts of methane. “Opportunities for Curbing Methane Pollution” brought together representatives from a wide spectrum of backgrounds: state and federal policy experts, environmental advocates, and labor. While each had their own reasons, be them safety, jobs, health, climate, all agreed that reducing methane emissions from the US oil and gas sector was both critical and possible. That sentiment was captured nicely by Judi Greenwald from the Department of Energy:
“For most people it’s primarily about methane and… these greenhouse gas reductions, but I think there are a lot of other [policy] drivers. In some instances it’s really the safety benefit that’s most important…. [And] there are a lot of other reasons to do this. So you get agreement on actions, but you might actually not get agreement on each [policy] driver.”
Reducing methane emissions is good for the climate
Carol Browner, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, offered opening remarks during which she said methane is a “very serious climate problem” because of its potency as a greenhouse gas. Methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20 year time frame and short-term climate forcers like methane will drive a significant portion of the climate change we experience in our lifetime. Read More
Nobody likes being told what to do.
Gina McCarthy, head of Environmental Protection Agency, knows that. So she asked her agency to craft a plan that leaves it up to states to shape their energy future – as long as they cut carbon emissions from power plants.
Often lost in the heated debate over EPA’s Clean Power Plan, however, is the fact this built-in flexibility will also give a boost to clean technology ventures, and speed up energy innovations already under way in many states. It could bring down costs for consumers, and maybe even give a much-needed boost to our economy.
Here’s how. Read More