Selected category: Natural Gas

Three reasons Westerners are fighting to defend federal methane waste standards

Westerners are a hardy bunch. They are used to working through adverse conditions and making the best of what the land provides. That includes fighting to defend requirements from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management that are designed to cut wasted natural gas and maximize revenue for community projects. This is despite repeated attempts from the Trump Administration to undercut these regulations and sell taxpayers short.

Here are three reasons communities and individuals from across the Mountain West are fighting to defend methane waste rules:

  1. Westerners hate waste: $1.8 billion and counting. That’s the value of taxpayer-owned natural gas that has been wasted since 2013 when the BLM began developing a new set of standards to address this problem. The rules finalized last November would help cut that waste and recover millions more in tax and royalty revenues for the western communities faced with impacts from oil and gas development that need it most.

Read More »

Also posted in BLM Methane, General, Methane| Comments are closed

Data shows two companies stand alone in their New England pipeline practices

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

Earlier this month we—a  team of economists at EDF, UC Santa Barbara, University of Wyoming and Vanderbilt University—released  a new study on the natural gas pipeline markets in New England which revealed a distinctive pattern showing that local gas utilities owned by two companies—Eversource and Avangrid—routinely ordered large deliveries, then sharply reduced those orders at the last minute. This “down-scheduling” consistently came too late for anyone else to buy that capacity, thus limiting available gas supply in the wholesale market.

One question people ask: Were these two companies acting any differently from other firms, and how can you tell?

We approached this question as we would any research project by thoroughly investigating the data. Over 18 months, we analyzed scheduled gas flows for all 117 delivery points (nodes) on the Algonquin pipeline for every hour of every day in a three-year study period from August 1, 2013 to July 31, 2016, which we downloaded from the pipeline’s public reporting web site. In total, we looked at approximately eight million data points generated from the scheduling patterns of 18 local gas utilities owned by 11 parent companies.

What we found in those public data was clear and irrefutable. Local distribution companies owned by two of those parent companies—and only utilities belonging to those parents—consistently behaved differently than all the others. We don’t know why, but there’s no question that it occurred. The pattern is clear when you visualize the data. Read More »

Also posted in Gas to Clean, General| Comments are closed

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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