Selected category: Natural Gas

Texas Methane Leaks are a Problem—for California

CA TXAliso Canyon was a big methane release, especially in Los Angeles, but in the grand scheme of methane released every day by the nation’s oil and gas industry, it was a blip. And recent footage from Texas, coupled with a new study of over 8,000 oil and gas wells gives a glimpse at the kind of leaks that are happening outside of California’s borders – leaks that have huge implications for the state.

The Texas infrared footage shows a cloud of methane leaking from a pump jack in an oil field in Texas’ Permian Basin. While these smaller leaks may not be as egregious as the one at Aliso Canyon, they often go undetected and unaddressed, adding up to a large amount of pollution. And as these leaks happen in Texas – with little plans to stop them – the climate footprint of the gas supply system continues to increase.

So what does this have to do with California? California imports nearly 90 percent of its natural gas from regions across western North America, with a large portion coming from Texas production areas like the Permian and Anadarko basins. To put it another way: when it comes to the climate, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas. So even while progress is happening to cut oil and gas pollution in the Golden State, there is still a lot of work to be done to make sure imported gas isn’t responsible for significant climate damage before it gets here. Read More »

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How Cutting Methane Waste Won the West – By Record Numbers

Cactus and Rig credit EarthworksOver the past few months, hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S. have spoken out in support of action on one very important topic: methane.

Methane is the main ingredient of natural gas.  It helps heat our homes and power our economy.  But when leaked or vented into the atmosphere, methane is also a potent greenhouse gas, more than 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20 year timeframe.

The oil and gas industry is the nation’s largest source of methane emissions, but new action from the Bureau of Land Management could help change that dynamic out West.

The majority of oil and gas production on federal and tribal lands occurs in the western U.S. Unfortunately, the companies that extract the oil and gas that belongs to the American people are allowing way too much methane to escape to the atmosphere. One recent report found that taxpayers may lose more than $800 million in revenue over the next decade due to venting and flaring on public lands if no action is taken. This is a critical reason for why the BLM recently issued a new proposal designed to stop industry’s wasteful methane habits on federal and tribal lands. And why thousands of impacted community members have voiced their support for BLM’s proposal. Read More »

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Ohio Gov. Kasich Moves to Reduce Environmental Impact of Natural Gas Industry

The administration of Ohio Governor John Kasich announced today that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) is taking another important step to reduce harmful air pollution from natural gas operations.

This isn’t the first time the Kasich administration has moved to address air pollution from the oil and gas industry. In 2014 Ohio joined Colorado and Wyoming in requiring operators to conduct quarterly inspections at well sites to find and fix emissions from leaking equipment. Today’s action extends these requirements upstream, and – notably — proposes to regulate both VOCs and methane, a move that helps cement Ohio’s position as one of the leading states on this issue.

Comprehensive methane rules are also under development in Pennsylvania (the nation’s second largest gas producer) and California (the nation’s third largest oil producer). Under both Republican and Democratic leadership, each of these states has recognized the benefits of keeping harmful emissions out of the air and valuable product in the pipeline. At the same time, they’re proving that these policies are highly cost-effective to implement. Read More »

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A Successful Cleanup at Aliso Canyon Requires a Principled Approach

aliso pic 2The leak in Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon Facility released a massive amount of methane – a powerful climate change pollutant. Like other catastrophes, now that the pollution release is stemmed, the focus shifts towards cleanup and mitigation (as well as establishing causation, preventing recurrence, and pursuing legal actions).

Last week California took a major step on the cleanup front with the release of the final Aliso Canyon mitigation plan, a plan to cut pollution equal to about 100,000 metric tons of methane. Its aims to achieve these reductions by focusing on the agriculture and waste sectors, increasing energy efficiency and decreasing use of fossil fuels, and reducing methane “hot spots.”

While the portfolio of strategies laid out within the finalized plan is strong, this is only the beginning of a lengthy process, and one in which pushback from SoCalGas is already palpable. As the critical details of the mitigation plan are put into action, adherence to core principles is necessary to ensure mitigation from the Aliso Canyon disaster is a success story for the climate and people of California. Read More »

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Largest Methane Study to Date Confirms We Need to Do a Better Job Checking for Methane Leaks

By Matt Watson and David Lyon

Drive by an oil or gas well pad, and it may not look like much — a couple of storage tanks, some pipes, maybe a see-sawing pump jack. But fly over one of these facilities with an infrared camera and you might see something different: methane pollution.

We did exactly that for a new study accepted today in Environmental Science and Technology. In the largest sample size of any methane emissions study to date, we hired one of the nation’s most experienced leak detection companies to fly a helicopter over 8,000 well pads in seven regions across the country using infrared technology to capture images of methane and other pollutants. The goal was to better characterize the prevalence of “super emitters” – the large, enigmatic sources responsible for a big portion of industry’s methane pollution – so we could figure out how to stop them.

Read More »

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To Keep Lights on in LA, State’s Aliso Canyon Action Plan Must Fix Energy Markets, Maximize Smart Energy Solutions

By Tim O’Connor and Lauren Navarro

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Ongoing fallout from the catastrophic failure at the Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon storage facility is exposing a critical weakness in the state’s energy system. Overdependence on natural gas – and on one provider of that gas – means we don’t have the flexibility we need to cope if things go wrong. And now that they have gone wrong, because of SoCalGas’ mismanagement of the Aliso Canyon storage facility, a group of state agencies says the region could be facing power shortages this summer as a result.

A new report released today by the California Energy Commission (CEC), California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), California Independent System Operator (CAISO,) the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Southern California Gas (SoCalGas) describes the problem. While a separate report released by CEC, CPUC, CAISO and LADWP, begins to lay out the short-term response plan. (Some of the efforts already under way are documented here, here, and here). Read More »

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