As a major producer and consumer of oil and gas, California can set the bar for reducing methane leaks. And today, the Golden State showed it’s up to the challenge, making a critical change in proposed rules aimed at cutting methane pollution from oil and gas wells, pipelines and equipment of the like – now putting California firmly on the path to adopt the nation’s strongest methane controls anywhere.
This matters because methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and a common byproduct of oil production, is a damaging greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.
A big lesson-learned from the months-long, mega-gas leak at Aliso Canyon, and the similarly tragic eight month gas leak in Arvin, CA in 2014, is that oil and gas infrastructure can fail. While leaks the size of Aliso Canyon are rare, it’s an example of the risk we face daily as this infrastructure ages, and a sobering reminder of how important it is to have protections that ensure methane stays in the pipelines—and not in our air. Read More
In response to the deadly natural gas explosion in San Bruno, California, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing new regulations to make pipelines safer. The regulations will go a long way toward safeguarding communities from the risks of natural gas explosions, but, if they’re done right, they could also protect the climate.
Natural gas is mostly methane – a potent climate pollutant, and reducing the amount of gas that leaks from pipelines also reduces emissions of methane. But there are aspects of the proposal that could result in an increase in methane emissions if proper action isn’t taken. The proposed safety measures require operators to conduct more testing to ensure that pipelines can handle high pressures of gas. Before this testing begins pipeline operators have to empty the pipes by blowing gas down the pipeline. Opponents to the rule say this would create a significant increase in methane emissions, but fortunately a recent study from a leading environmental consulting firm concluded otherwise. Read More
On June 20 and 21, temperatures across the Southwest hit record triple digits. It was a scorching way to start the summer. For Southern Californians, early arrival of extreme heat tested the region’s already compromised electricity system: Residents braced for rolling blackouts as the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility (one of the primary sources of power generation in the region) was offline after a disastrous methane leak last winter. Aliso will remain offline until Southern California Gas Company can assure regulators, legislators, and the community that it can be operated safely and efficiently.
The heatwave was further complicated by devastating wildfires to the north and southwest, but the region was ultimately able to emerge from the threat relatively unscathed. Although thousands of residents dealt with short-term outages, rolling blackouts – reminders of California’s dramatic energy crisis of the early 2000s – never came and the region was able to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
During the heatwave, focus was rightly on keeping the system running. But now it’s time to look at how we were able to meet historic electricity demand without the system crashing, and how this will inform power providers in the months ahead.
A ruptured natural gas pipeline in the quiet community of San Bruno, California ignited on the evening of September 9, 2010. The resulting fire destroyed 38 homes, killed eight people, and injured many others. It was one of the biggest pipeline explosions in recent history, and it very likely could have been prevented.
Now, almost six years later, the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is proposing new regulations to prevent serious incidents, like what happened in San Bruno, from happening again. Read More
Mexican President Peña Nieto today formalized Mexico’s plan to join the U.S. and Canada in making oil and gas methane reductions a national priority, marking yet another country taking leadership to address this extremely potent greenhouse gas. The three leaders agreed that each of their countries would develop rules to cut up to 45 percent of methane escaping from across the continent’s oil and gas industries by 2025. It’s a pledge that once fully realized would have the same 20-year climate effect as taking 85 million cars off the road. Featured among a package of broader energy and climate commitments, the common methane reduction goal is a centerpiece.
This announcement is a milestone for North America energy integration and cooperation. But, it’s also an important moment for Mexico. The commitments Mexico is making both in-country and as part of the continental pact on methane, distinguishes Mexico as a clear world leader on energy and climate issues, along with the U.S. and Canada. By taking advantage of low-cost, oil and gas methane reductions, Mexico can make an immediate down payment on its climate goal – cuts can deliver about 10% of the greenhouse gas reductions Mexico pledged, and all at a cost savings. The key will be implementation and what steps Mexico takes next are critical. Read More
By Cloelle Danforth and Steve Hamburg
For all that we hear and think about oil and gas production, wastewater may not be at the top of our list of concerns. And yet, onshore oil and gas operations in the United States produce more than 800 billion gallons of toxic wastewater each year.
Most oil and gas companies either dispose of this water deep underground, or recycle it for use in other wells. But a growing number of operators are now considering alternate ways to discharge or reuse this water above ground.
Before we can effectively manage this influx of wastewater in new ways, we need to have a better understanding of what’s in it. Read More