Selected category: Natural Gas

Ohio pipeline spill underscores the need for strong regulation and oversight

Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the same company responsible for the Dakota Access Pipeline, just spilled millions of gallons of drilling sludge into an Ohio wetland – but don’t worry, they say everything is “safe.”

Craig Butler, Director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency called the company’s response “dismissive,” and “exceptionally disappointing,” and he’s right.

Fortunately, federal and state regulators have stepped up to hold ETP accountable.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission ordered ETP to halt plans to continue with other pipeline drilling projects in the area and to double the number of environmental inspectors on its payroll.  And the Ohio EPA fined ETP $400,000 for the damage caused by this spill, damage that OEPA says could be deadly and last for decades. Read More »

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A cheat sheet for preventing catastrophe at gas storage sites

Today, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission and the Ground Water Protection Council published a new report entitled “Underground Gas Storage Regulatory Considerations: A Guide for State and Federal Regulatory Agencies.” Like the title says, the report helps regulators make decisions that will ultimately make gas storage facilities across the country safer and more secure.

Gas storage reached many Americans’ attention in the aftermath of the major leak at the Aliso Canyon Storage Facility, which forced thousands of families to evacuate their homes after a massive leak caused more than 100,000 tons of methane to escape into the air.

Read More »

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Smart money: Top investors press oil & gas companies to tackle methane emissions

A global group of 30 leading institutional investors coordinated by the PRI (Principles for Responsible Investment) has announced a new initiative that will encourage oil and gas companies, including gas utilities, around the world to initiate or improve efforts to measure, report, and reduce methane emissions.

The move is the latest evidence that investors are concerned with the financial, reputational and environmental risks associated with unmonitored and unchecked methane venting and leakage.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. It’s responsible for about 25% of the warming our planet is experiencing today. Globally, the oil and gas industry is among the largest man-made sources of methane.

Methane is also the main ingredient in the natural gas, the product that major global producers have marketed to investors as central to their growth in the years ahead. Companies tout gas as a clean, low-carbon fuel, ignoring the vast amounts of unburned methane escaping from their systems each year, or the lack of transparency with regard to monitoring and reduction strategies.

The owners and asset managers involved in the PRI’s methane initiative oversee more than $3 trillion. They are global in scope, representing a dozen countries across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. PRI plans to engage 29 companies on four continents, from across the natural gas supply chain (the names aren’t being made public). They will be urging greater transparency and stronger, more concrete actions, including setting methane targets and participating responsibly on methane policy. Read More »

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Numbers don’t lie – finding and fixing methane leaks create jobs across North America

By Isabel Mogstad

Even though Washington policies may be in full retreat concerning the environment, the world’s energy economies are moving toward the future. Growing opportunities in the methane management technology and services industry is one example, where new well-paying jobs in the industry are being created across the U.S. and Canada. These are jobs that could soon be in high demand in other energy-producing countries.

Billions of dollars’ worth of methane – the primary component of natural gas – is escaping from the world’s oil and gas value chain every year. With proven and low-cost fixes readily available from the methane mitigation industry, global methane emissions represent $10 billion in potential revenue for the oil and gas industry.

Two of the top five polluting countries globally, the U.S. and Canada, are showing there is an economic upside to eliminating methane waste by tapping the offerings of this emerging new industry.

Nearly 180 companies provide methane waste and pollution reduction technologies and services in Canada, according to a new job opportunities report released last week by the Methane Emissions Leadership Alliance (MELA), an association for the Canadian methane emissions management industry. Read More »

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New studies: Methane emissions from Canadian oil & gas industry are worse than reported

Two studies released this week make it clear that Canada’s push toward methane regulations for the oil and gas industry is a smart move. And, while data of Canada’s oil and gas methane problem is still limited, these studies reinforce what research of the U.S. oil and gas industry found: oil and gas facilities are leaking far more than the industry reports — and more than it would like us to believe.

The first study, focused on Alberta and released by the Canadian environmental action organization Environmental Defence, concluded that industry is underreporting the amount of equipment located at their facilities, which means they emit more than official emission inventories report. Additionally, the study found that Alberta’s oil and gas facilities average about one large emission source per well.

The second, conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation and focused in British Columbia, measured methane emissions at existing oil and gas facilities and found that emissions are large and widespread. In fact, in just one development area of British Columbia, facilities could leak 111,800 tons of methane each year – the climate pollution equivalent of burning more than 4.5 million tons of coal or more than two million cars over the next two decades. Further, methane emissions from this area were shown to be at least 2.5 times higher than reported by the B.C. government but may be much higher.

This new research is troubling for several reasons. Read More »

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New report offers long-awaited answers about reusing oil and gas industry’s wastewater

A new report from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s (OWRB) Produced Water Working Group indicates that oil and gas companies looking for ways to dispose of large volumes of wastewater should focus on recycling those liquids within the oil and gas fields, and not – as some suggest – use it for irrigation or other surface applications where human and environmental exposure is a risk.

The Produced Water Working Group, a panel of 17 state experts convened by Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin in December, 2015, to study various options for wastewater reuse, determined that treating wastewater for use outside of the oil field is not economical, nor are the environmental and health risks well understood.

In fact, the Working Group didn’t evaluate health and environmental risks for any of the 10 alternative uses evaluated. While research into reducing the cost of desalination, by powering treatment facilities with solar or excess lease gas, for example, may be promising, it won’t be sufficient to green light uses that introduce oil and gas wastewater into contact with communities and ecosystems.

To that end, the OWRB recommends that scientific efforts should be devoted to “identifying toxicological risks and protective water quality targets to ensure that the environment and public health are adequately protected under various reuse scenarios.” This is exactly right. Read More »

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