Selected category: Natural Gas

Four Things to Look for in EPA’s New Voluntary Methane Reduction Proposal

Barn snip 3The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is soon expected to propose its new “enhanced” Natural Gas STAR program, providing guidelines for oil and gas companies that want to voluntarily work to reduce their methane emissions. Calls for voluntary measures by industry to address this pollution have increased in recent months, as the EPA is set to release its  first-ever methane rules this summer.

While voluntary efforts can be helpful in establishing new technologies or practices, and validating industry’s ability to meet regulatory benchmarks, opt-in programs alone are no substitute for effective regulation that will reduce energy waste and better protect public health. As we’ve said before, current voluntary programs have an extremely low rate of company participation.

In fact, EPA’s current Natural Gas STAR membership includes less than one half of one percent of all oil and gas producers and operators. Therefore, any update to the program should be seen as an adjunct to long-overdue rules that set sensible emission limits for the industry. That’s the only way to set a level playing field for the approximately 10,000 operators that are part of this rapidly expanding oil and gas industry. Read More »

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Powering Texas: Big, Clean, Market-Driven Changes are Already Underfoot

By: Peter Sopher, policy analyst, clean energy, and Sarah Ryan, clean energy consultant

wind-364996_640 pixabayOver the past century, the electric grid in the United States has experienced only minor changes. There is evidence, however, the power sector is changing. We are moving away from traditional coal generation and toward alternative, cleaner energy sources. And despite our state being primarily known for oil and gas, Texas is no exception.

In fact, Texas’ electricity sector has been trending cleaner over the past decades, driven by deregulation of the electricity market, the development of the massive highway of transmission lines built to carry West Texas wind to cities throughout the state – the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ), and technological progress. Basically, once the market was opened up to competition, the more economic options – which also happen to be cleaner – began to gain a foothold. And there’s no stopping this train.

Where we are and where we’re going

To start, the declining use of fossil fuels to power our lives is perhaps the most significant change in Texas. As shown in Figure 1 below, fossil fuels’ (coal and gas’) proportion of the state’s electricity generation mix shrunk from 88 percent in 2002 to 82 percent in 2013. Read More »

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Oil & Gas Industry Mangles More Facts, Turns EDF Study Results Upside Down

Barnett graphic high res

Click to enlarge.

Here we go again.

A new set of peer-reviewed scientific papers pointing to 50 percent higher than estimated regional methane emissions from oil and gas operations in Texas were published this week. And like clockwork, the oil and gas industry’s public relations machine, Energy In Depth, proclaimed that rising emissions are actually falling, and that the industry’s meager voluntary efforts are responsible.

This is, of course, wrong on both counts. In fact, it’s a willful misrepresentation of the findings.

First, the assertion that emissions are going down is flat wrong. EPA’s latest inventory released in April reports that in 2013 the oil and gas industry released more than 7.3 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere from their operations—a three percent increase over 2012—making it the largest industrial source of methane pollution. So much for those voluntary efforts. Read More »

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New Research Finds Higher Methane Emissions, Reduction Opportunities in Texas’ Barnett Shale Region

Methane emissions from vast oil and gas operations in the densely populated Barnett Shale region of Texas are 50 percent higher than estimates based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) greenhouse gas inventory, according to a series of 11 new papers published today in Environmental Science & Technology.

The majority of these emissions are from a small but widespread number of sources across the region’s oil and gas supply chain. These emissions come from the sort of leaks and equipment malfunctions that are relatively easy to prevent with proper and frequent monitoring and repair practices.

The sprawling Barnett region, fanning out westward from the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, contains about 30,000 oil and gas wells, 275 compressor stations, and 40 processing plants. It is one of the country’s largest production areas, responsible for 7 percent of total U.S. natural gas output.

Unpredictable, Widespread Sources Dominate Read More »

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IEA: Reducing Oil & Gas Methane Key to Curbing Climate Change

IEA_iLogoLast Friday, the incoming head of the International Energy Agency (IEA), Faith Birol, provided a briefing to U.S. stakeholders about IEA’s new special report on climate change, which found that global emissions could peak by the end of this decade without reducing economic growth. The report outlines five key pillars for turning the emissions corner by 2020, and importantly, one of the pillars is reducing methane from the oil and gas sector. The report‘s finding that the scale of potential reductions from oil and gas methane is about the same as the reductions from renewable energy underscores the impact that action on methane can have.

IEA’s report is the latest in a stream of recent analyses illustrating the enormous potential for methane reductions to slow climate change. This is because methane has such a powerful short-term impact on the climate, with 84 times more warming power than carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeline. And, the report also highlights the significant opportunity that exists in implementing cost-effective, commonsense measures to cut these emissions, which many governments and companies have not yet taken advantage of. Read More »

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Investor Ranks Top $1.5 Trillion in Support of National Methane Standards

investorsCalifornia public school teachers. Religious charities. New York police officers and firefighters.

What do all of these groups have in common? Investors representing them — who manage $1.5 trillion in retirees, current employees’, and others assets – are standing together and calling for strong rules limiting harmful methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. This level of outpouring – from diversified investors with holdings in the oil and gas industry – represents five times the support investors expressed for methane rules last year. A trend is emerging.

The investors, including the largest retirement funds in California and New York, issued a powerful statement in support of the president’s methane proposal aimed at cutting emissions nearly in half in a decade. A centerpiece is regulation of methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, which has over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it’s released and is responsible for 25 percent of the warming we are feeling today. Read More »

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