Selected category: Natural Gas

Innovative satellite launched for monitoring global methane and air quality

By Ritesh Gautam and Steven Hamburg

Artist’s rendition of TROPOMI onboard Sentinel-5P satellite. Source: European Space Agency.

Last Friday, the European Space Agency Sentinel-5p satellite went into orbit above the earth. Onboard is an imaging spectrometer instrument called TROPOMI, led by SRON (Dutch Space Agency) and KNMI (Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute) to monitor the amount of methane, ozone and other air quality-related pollutants in the atmosphere.

There has been quite a buzz around this unique advancement in space, and the valuable data it will provide on methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that accounts for a quarter of the warming our planet is experiencing today. Curbing anthropogenic methane emissions is one of the most efficient and economical options available to slow the rate of warming over the next few decades, while efforts continue to reduce CO2 emissions worldwide.

Detecting methane from space

Methane sources include both natural and manmade emissions from livestock, agriculture, oil and gas operations, and landfills. These sources are distributed around the world and vary widely at local, regional and temporal scales—which makes it challenging to quantify emissions from diverse sources. Read More »

Also posted in Climate, Methane| Comments are closed

Vastly underreported emissions in Alberta’s oil patch reveal excessive natural gas waste

Alberta’s oil and gas industry is emitting at least 25 to 50 percent more methane than current estimates suggest, according to a new peer-reviewed study. Published in Environmental Science and Technology, a clear pattern of energy waste is occurring across Canada – a problem worth a minimum of $530 million dollars (CAD) of natural gas a year, or enough gas to heat nearly every home in Alberta.

Researchers indicate that the volumes of methane – the main ingredient in natural gas and a powerful climate pollutant – observed in Alberta are higher because two key emission sources, unintentional leaks and intentional venting of methane, are happening at rates much larger than the oil and gas industry reports.

This is not the first scientific study to draw this conclusion. The Carleton University research builds on previous studies underscoring the climate risks of an unabated methane gas problem, but widespread leaks and persistent venting are making the problem worse. Canada’s oil and gas industry is already the country’s largest source of methane emissions.

Aside from the energy loss and climate concerns, numerous pollutants laced with these emissions are known to degrade air quality, worsen smog and harm public health. Yet, many low-cost solutions are in hand to solve this problem. Read More »

Also posted in Methane| Comments are closed

A timeline of Zinke's crusade against methane rules

Here’s a newly-minted cabinet secretary charged with managing 20 percent of the American landscape on behalf of taxpayers and 567 Native American tribes – presented with an opportunity to save his stakeholders millions without lifting a finger.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, inexplicably, is rejecting this broad public relations win to instead go to bat for the worst actors in the oil and gas industry who only focus on their own short-term bottom line.

Zinke is trying with all his might to halt an Obama-era rule that will reduce wasteful leaking, venting and flaring of natural gas on federal and tribal lands.

On the lands in Secretary Zinke’s charge, oil and gas companies waste around $330 million worth of natural gas annually. That’s enough gas to meet the heating and cooking needs of 1.5 million American homes – or every home in Chicago.

Such waste on land administered by Interior’s Bureau of Land Management also results in the needless emission of methane, volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants, all of which are threats to human health and the environment. Read More »

Also posted in BLM Methane, Methane| Comments are closed

Getting dangerously creative with oil and gas wastewater

Look before you leap – why learning more about oilfield wastewater is critical to reducing health and safety risks.

The oil and gas industry has a massive wastewater problem. And if the growing dialogue about new ways of dealing with it are any indication, it may get worse if we aren’t careful.

Cost concerns, pressure to conserve water, and other factors have led some oil and gas companies to consider new ways to manage or repurpose wastewater – including using it to irrigate crops. That could create more problems than it solves.

Managing the massive amount of oil and gas wastewater has been a challenge for energy companies for generations. Some wells produce up to 10 times more wastewater than oil. In the United States, companies produce nearly 900 billion gallons of wastewater a year. That’s enough to fill over 1,000 football stadiums.

Ongoing Risks

Oil and gas wastewater is often many times saltier than sea water – and can ruin soil for generations if large amounts spill or leak during storage or transport.  In fact, landowners with a long history of oil and gas production on their lands know that a wastewater spill can cause much more long term damage to their land than an oil spill. Read More »

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Dysfunctional gas market cost New England electric customers $3.6 billion

This blog post was co-authored with Levi MarksCharles Mason and Matthew Zaragoza-Watkins

New England natural gas and electricity prices have undergone dramatic spikes in recent years, spurring talk about the need for a costly new pipeline to meet the region’s needs as demand for gas seemed ready to overtake suppliers’ available capacity to deliver it. For example, during the polar vortex of 2013-14, the gas price at New England’s main gas trading hub regularly exceeded $20/MMBtu (million British Thermal Units, the measure commonly used in the gas industry) and reached a record high of $78/MMBtu on January 22, 2014, compared to the annual average of $5.50/MMBtu.

In an efficient market, we would indeed expect prices to be high during events like the polar vortex. We would also expect pipelines delivering gas to regions like the Boston area – in this case the Algonquin Gas Transmission (AGT) pipeline – to be fully utilized. But this is not what we observed when we analyzed the scheduling patterns on the AGT pipeline from 2013 to 2016.

What 8 million data points told us about artificial shortages

Our research group spent 18 months looking at eight million data points covering the three-year period from mid-2013 to mid-2016. We discovered that during this period, a handful of New England gas utilities owned by two large energy companies routinely scheduled large deliveries, then cancelled orders at the last minute. These scheduling practices created an artificial shortage when in fact there was far more pipeline capacity on the system than it appeared. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean| Leave a comment

What’s new for the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program?

This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency posted the 2016 Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) data online. While there are positive trends in the type of data included and the ways that data are measured, the general picture is of an industry with many remaining opportunities to reduce emissions.

The GHGRP is an emissions reporting program for large facilities that emit more than 25,000 metric tons carbon dioxide equivalents (MT CO2e) of methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The data provided by the GHGRP are invaluable for understanding the sectors and sources responsible for GHG emissions and can guide the design of effective policies for reducing emissions.

Additionally, EPA has been incorporating GHGRP data into the Greenhouse Gas Inventory, an annual report that estimates U.S. GHG emissions. In 2016, 7,631 facilities reported emitting almost 3 billion MT CO2e GHGs. After power plants, which are responsible for 63% of reported emissions, the oil and gas (O&G) sector is the largest source of GHG emissions. This year there are three major changes to the reporting protocols for oil and gas facilities. Read More »

Also posted in Methane| Leave a comment
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