Last weekend the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) joined a growing chorus of groups recognizing the importance of action to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. In addition to being the primary component of the natural gas sold at market, methane is a potent heat-trapping pollutant that is responsible for about 25 percent of current warming patterns. As the resolution states:
"Western Governors recognize the environmental benefits to reducing methane emissions and the opportunities for beneficial use of the natural resource.”
Western governors stepping up on this issue sends the strong message that state leaders and regulators recognize the need to cut emissions of a potent climate pollutant and stop waste of a finite natural resource. The western region is a major center of domestic oil and gas production and these governors understand action to reduce methane emissions means more natural gas will stay in the pipe, benefitting end users and state economies. The west is also already seeing the impacts of a changed climate through droughts and wildfires, again pointing to the need to address this potent climate pollutant. Read More
How much does the design of America’s energy market affect the environment? More than one might expect.
Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency responsible for regulating the wholesale natural gas and electricity markets, issued a proposed policy statement designed to encourage pipeline operators to replace their leakiest equipment: compressor stations. Reciprocating compressors are an essential part of the nation’s gas delivery system. They help move natural gas through cross-country pipelines to utilities that then deliver the fuel to its end customer. A challenge, however, is that aging compressor stations are more likely to leak as they help pump the gas to its final destination, and hundreds of these units have not been updated since the 1940’s. These leak-prone units are one of the largest sources of methane emissions —a potent greenhouse gas that can also cause explosions in some cases.
The cost to replace just one “vintage” unit can be tens of millions of dollars — one reason pipeline operators have been slow to update this equipment. Fortunately, FERC’s new proposal would provide a pathway for pipelines operators to recover the significant cost of refitting their systems with modern, safer, and more efficient compressors. Read More
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How do you detect a colorless, odorless gas? It’s an important question especially when that invisible gas is as damaging as what comprises oil and gas pollution. We are talking about hazardous air pollutants (benzene), ozone precursors (volatile organic compounds), and greenhouse gases like methane – a gas that is more than 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide to the climate in the short term.
Widely available tools like infrared cameras and hand-held hydrocarbon detectors are very effective at detecting leaks from oil and gas equipment, but new technologies and new science are always welcome.
That’s what makes a new paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology exciting. Led by experts from EPA’s Office of Research and Development, and co-authored by EDF’s David Lyon, this study uses a new technique to identify and measure methane emissions at oil and gas facilities.
If you send a bucket to the well, you make sure it doesn’t have a hole in it first. You’re careful that the new milk carton isn’t seeping all over your refrigerator shelf. And you know that a dripping water pipe can mean big problems if you don’t get after it quickly. Leaks are messy, wasteful, and often costly.
That’s why sensible people avoid leaks when they can, and fix them when they need to.
And it’s why oil and gas companies should be fixing thousands of leaks that are letting at least $1.7 billion dollars’ worth of natural gas vent or leak from their well sites, pipelines, and local gas delivery systems every year. The waste is enough natural gas to heat five million homes a year.
It’s bad enough to waste a valuable commodity. What’s worse is that unburned natural gas, which is mostly methane, has a potent effect on the climate, packing over 80 times more warming power than carbon dioxide over the first twenty years of a methane molecule in the atmosphere. And that leaking methane is frequently accompanied by smog-forming pollution. Read More
Late last week Wyoming air regulators took a second crack at a proposed rule to fix a serious ozone pollution problem in the state’s Upper Green River Basin. To use a baseball analogy, this rule designed to reduce pollution from the oil and gas industry, is a solid double.
This proposal improves upon a version released in June. The updated rule extends inspection requirements to compressor stations to capture more of the leaks that create air pollution and the methane that is the industry’s main product. And it eliminates provisions that—in some cases–would have allowed companies to remove certain devices from well sites that we know reduce pollution.
Both changes are improvements that EDF and local allies have advocated for and the Mead Administration deserves praise for leadership in this area. Once finalized and implemented, this rule will form the backbone of the state’s plan to clean up the air in and around Pinedale, Wyoming, that has become dangerously polluted by harmful emissions from the oil and gas industry. Read More
Revolutionary paradigm shifts often require cohesive development of many moving parts, some of which advance more quickly than others in practice. Germany’s revolutionary Energiewende (or “energy transition”) is no exception. Set to achieve nearly 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, Germany’s Energiewende is one of the most aggressive clean energy declarations in the world. While growth of Germany’s installed renewables capacity has been explosive in recent years, optimization measures designed for Energiewende have manifested at a relatively slow pace.
Germany already has one of the most reliable electric grids in the world, but as implementation of Energiewende continues, optimization will be key to its future success. This will require better sources of backup generation to accommodate the intermittency of wind and solar, a dynamic energy market that ensures fair compensation for this backup, and a more flexible, resilient grid enabled by smart grid technologies to fully optimize demand side resources and a growing renewable energy portfolio. Read More