We’ve all seen TV detectives dust a scene for fingerprints. In a study in the journal Nature, a team of scientists did something similar, using carbon isotopes to identify the “fingerprints” of methane– one of the world’s most powerful climate pollutants in the atmosphere.
The study examined the isotopic signature from two types of methane emissions: biogenic (sources like wetlands, landfills and agriculture) and thermogenic (encompassing geologic seepage, activities associated with the oil and gas supply chain or coal mines).
The evidence suggests that not only are we significantly underestimating the share global methane emissions from thermogenic sources, we’re also underestimating how much comes from the production, delivery and use of oil and gas and the production of coal. Read More
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to regulate existing sources of methane from the oil and gas industry, and it is asking for information from the methane mitigation industry to make sure the rule’s approach and requirements account for recent innovation. The EPA’s announcement comprises the U.S. portion of the North American commitment to cut methane by up to 45% from the continent’s oil and gas industry by 2025. Existing sources in the oil and gas industry make up over 90% of the sector’s emissions, which contribute over 9 million tons of methane pollution annually.
The opportunity is open now to tell the EPA what works in methane mitigation.
Emission standards for existing sources of methane will not only reduce greenhouse gases but could also create new markets and customers for the growing mitigation industry. The regulation will likely start with one or more approved work practices to find and fix methane leaks, describing a technology or group of technologies that must be used in a certain manner. For example, EPA’s New Source Performance Standards for new and modified sources of methane required the use of optical gas imaging cameras or “Method 21” instruments. With far more existing sources of methane than new or modified sources, being part of an approved work practice for existing sources would open up a significant market opportunity. Read More
Also posted in General, Methane
Conversations around climate change almost always involve carbon dioxide, with good reason. It’s essential to dramatically reduce this pollutant to drive down the total amount of climate warming our children and grandchildren will experience. But, what we’ve also learned over the last few years is that an effective climate strategy needs to do two things: Reduce cumulative warming and the speed at which this warming is happening.
Next to CO2, methane is the most impactful greenhouse gas. While it breaks down faster in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, methane packs 84 times more warming power for the first 20 years after it’s emitted.
About one-quarter of the warming we are experiencing today is attributable to human emissions of methane, with the oil and gas industry its largest industrial source. Fortunately, there are cost-effective strategies to reduce methane emissions across the oil and gas industry. There is nothing as quick, easy, or cost-effective at slowing the rate of climate change right now than reducing oil and gas methane pollution. Read More
New findings by NASA scientists attributing a giant, invisible cloud of methane – nearly 5 times the size of Mexico City – over the southwestern U.S. to the region’s sprawling web of oil and gas facilities raise important new concerns not just on this side of the border, but for Mexico as well.
Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. Scientists estimate that methane contributes to about 25 percent of today’s warming. Cleaning up methane also reduces other pollutants: both ozone precursors that affect air quality and air toxics that erode human health.
The recent NASA paper linking the methane cloud to production, processing and distribution of oil and natural gas also notes that just a small portion of these sites, about 10%, were responsible for more than half the emissions. This is just the most recent example of a long list of scientific studies that have found that subset of sites or facilities disproportionately account for the majority of emissions. Scientists have called this subset of sites super-emitters. Read More
This morning, the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on the Environment will hold a hearing on the EPA’s methane emissions regulations, during which I will offer some insights into how and why the oil and gas industry should reduce methane emissions.
This is the first hearing about the methane issue, and while the panel is tipped in favor of industry and we don’t expect testimony to cover all the facts, here are a couple things to look out for as the discussion unfolds.
Industry representatives who are not in favor of regulations will try to make the following points:
- They will say that the oil and gas supply chain isn’t the problem.
- They will say that the oil and gas industry is more than capable of self-regulating.
- They will say that regulation will cost a struggling industry too much, and will put American jobs at risk.
None of these statements is true.
What is true is the fact that methane poses a significant threat to our environment. Over the first 20 years following its release, methane is some 84 times more potent than CO2 in terms of the climate damage it does. While CO2 represents a continuing, long-term threat in the form of accumulated, long-lived and rising atmospheric concentrations, methane drives near-term climate effects. The result is that 25% of the global warming we are experiencing now is due to methane emissions. Read More