Vocal opposition from parts of the oil and gas business against policies to limit the industry’s heat-trapping methane emissions can sometimes obscure emerging efforts by some companies to tackle one of the sector’s biggest environmental and reputation challenges – and one that’s becoming ever more prominent by the day.
But not everybody in oil and gas is digging in their heels. In fact, there’s a growing list of companies working in various ways to start solving the problem. None of these initiatives alone is likely to get us where we need to be. But together they’re helping pave the way toward a more comprehensive answer that levels the playing field by creating sensible performance standards for everyone in the industry.
One of these emerging efforts is the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, a voluntary effort to improve emissions reporting and accelerate best practices to reduce methane. Launched at the 2014 United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit, OGMP includes BP, Eni, Pemex, PTT, Repsol, Southwestern Energy, Statoil, and Total. The companies agreed to seek out ways to survey, assess and disclose their methane emissions, and find new opportunities to reduce them. Read More »
Yesterday, the Southern California Gas Company filed for permission to resume operations through approved wells at its Aliso Canyon gas storage facility, saying it has completed key safety tests. The facility has been offline over the last year, after it sprung one of the largest gas leaks ever recorded.
Efforts to bring the facility online – and the challenges for the region’s electricity system if Aliso stays offline – underscore the need to address these issues from a broader, longer term perspective.
In addition to supplying gas to homes and businesses, the giant storage field served 17 major gas fired electric generating plants in the region. When a link as important as Aliso Canyon fails, the reliability implications for the electric grid are serious. Read More »
With oil and natural gas production, it’s not only the industry that benefits monetarily. Mineral rights holders (the people who actually own the oil and gas deep below the earth’s surface) benefit too. Depending on where you look in the United States, who owns these mineral rights varies. In many places those minerals are owned by individuals and in other situations it’s the federal or state government.
In the Western U.S., it can often be Native American tribes that own the rights to these resources. And the revenue from the production of these tribal resources can be invaluable for funding education, health care, and other programs. So, what happens when faulty equipment and poor practices allow valuable natural gas to escape to the atmosphere before making it to the sales line? It can result in millions of dollars of lost royalty revenue for Native American tribes.
A recent EDF analysis focuses on the value of this wasted gas and the financial impacts to the Northern Ute tribe in the Uintah Basin of Northeastern Utah. Read More »
When the gusher of methane pouring out of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage field was discovered last October 23, it almost instantly transformed the sleepy Los Angeles suburb of Porter Ranch into the site of one of the biggest environmental disasters in recent history. It would ultimately take four months to stop the massive leak. According to a new report released today, it pumped nearly 100,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.
Now, a year later, the question: What’s been done to fix the problem, and to prevent future blowouts – either at Aliso Canyon, or the 400 similar facilities in more than 30 states? The answer is, while there’s been some progress, it’s not nearly enough.
While air quality as a whole has been improving across the United States over the past few decades, many areas that are ground zero for the nation’s expanding oil and gas industry have shown an increase in dangerous pollutants. In fact, states with substantial drilling activities saw worsening air quality recently, according to the American Lung Association’s last State of the Air report.
That’s because the oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which mix with NOX and sunlight to form ground-level ozone, also known as smog. Additionally, existing oil and gas sources do not face comprehensive nationwide limits for this type of pollution.
This smog has tangible effects, though. In late September, the Clean Air Task Force released a report detailing that the amount of smog forming emissions from the oil and gas sector could lead to as many as 750,000 asthma attacks. The report, called “Gasping for Breath,” similarly documents that these emissions could lead to more than 500,000 days of school missed and 2,000 asthma-related emergency room visits. Accompanying the report is an interactive map, developed by Earthworks, which displays data about the location of active oil and gas wells, and areas of threats to public health.
The Los Angeles City Council recently passed a unanimous resolution requiring Los Angeles Department of Water and Power – the largest municipally-owned utility in the country — to study how the city can achieve a 100% clean energy future. With help from research partners, including academic institutions, the U.S. Department of Energy, and environmental and consumer groups, the study has the potential to become a foundational roadmap for running the utility on only clean and renewable energy.
California currently has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, with half of the state’s energy supply powered by renewable electricity by 2030. To achieve these targets, it is imperative for the state to look seriously at how to get off of fossil fuel dependency for our energy needs. Utilities and cities can be the key to reaching those climate goals. Read More »