Energy Exchange

A zero flaring policy is long overdue, and investors can help make it reality

As investors take a hard look at the U.S. energy sector during this time of volatility, natural gas flaring is one of the most important and immediate risks to manage.

The eyesore of the oilfield, flaring natural gas destroys shareholder value and creates environmental, social and governance risk — exactly the kind of problem that an increasing number of asset managers, investment banks, and even private equity firms have promised to address.

Routine flaring is damaging the environment in several ways. In addition to the CO2 emissions from combusted gas, flares can release significant amounts of methane into the atmosphere. EDF’s recent helicopter survey found that more than one in every 10 flares at oil and gas sites across the Permian Basin was either unlit — venting uncombusted methane straight to the atmosphere — or only partially burning the gas they were releasing. In fact, the survey suggests that flaring could be among the region’s largest sources of fugitive methane and a troublesome contributor to local air pollution.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed

A bright future for continuous methane detection

Over the last decade, a trove of scientific studies has established that not only are methane emissions from oil and gas operations a major contributor to climate change, but also that they are severely underestimated and underreported.

EDF has been at the forefront of research to detect and quantify the magnitude of oil and gas methane emissions. And we’ve also helped develop solutions that make large-scale emission reductions easier, faster and cheaper. A new initiative led by The University of Texas at Austin called Project ASTRA is a promising, multi-year experiment with the potential to build on and complement other efforts aimed at scaling global reductions of oil and gas methane emissions.

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Also posted in Methane / Comments are closed

However you measure it, Permian oil and gas operations have highest emissions ever measured in a U.S. oilfield

Two fundamentally different methods EDF is using to measure and understand methane emissions in the Permian Basin are producing strikingly similar results. The mutually reinforcing sets of data — one gathered using aircraft, the other by satellite — each show that oil and gas operators in the region are releasing more than 3.5% of the natural gas they extract from the ground into the atmosphere as methane pollution.

That’s roughly twice the average rate found in 11 other major U.S. oil and gas basins. The wasted gas in the Permian is enough to supply 2 million American homes for a year.

The first of these efforts is EDF’s year-long PermianMAP, which tracks emissions from the ground and in the air, and takes the unprecedented step of publishing data online in near-real time to help industry and officials reduce those emissions, while letting the public see the results. The other is the first peer-reviewed scientific study to take direct measurement of Permian emissions, using the European Space Agency’s TROPOMI instrument.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Methane regulatons, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed

Big step back: Changes in new EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory mask methane emissions

For years, experts have urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to improve the way it estimates methane emissions from the oil and gas sector to reflect major advances in the peer-reviewed scientific understanding of how much methane is escaping from each link in the industry’s complex supply chain. Bringing agency methods into line with this science would yeild better, more accurate accounting, and it would almost certainly show that actual emissions are much higher than previously indicated.

Instead, EPA has gone in the exact opposite direction, making a million metric tons of methane pollution disappear from the books with the stroke of a methodological pen.

The EPA’s latest inventory released this month, incorporated data from a new study for the gathering segment, but this study uses “bottom-up” measurements that scientists say are likely to systematically underestimate emissions rather than incorporate “top-down” approaches that rely on atmospheric science, and which extensive research has shown to be far more accurate.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

Satellites and state regulators: New data spotlights extreme emissions and need for action in nation’s largest oilfield

By Jon Goldstein and Colin Leyden

This week a study drawing on nearly a year’s worth of satellite data revealed that Permian methane emissions are the highest ever measured from a U.S. oil and gas basin.

As the federal government continues its rollback of methane safeguards, public attention is now trained on policymakers and companies in Texas and New Mexico — two leading oil producing states that straddle the Permian Basin.

While New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham forges ahead on nation-leading rules to curb oil and gas methane waste and pollution, state leaders in Texas have yet to get serious about a problem that could undermine the industry’s viability in an economy that increasingly prioritizes cleaner sources of energy.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Methane regulatons, Natural Gas, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed

New data finds alarming levels of methane emissions in the Permian, posing long-term risk for oil and gas portfolios

Investors managing oil and gas portfolios are contending with major disruption as two interrelated crises play out: the global COVID-19 pandemic and extreme volatility in the price of oil. Yet even before these events, cracks were showing in the sector’s financial footing. Pressure has been rising on industry to improve returns, while demand to deliver on Environmental Societal Governance initiatives has never been higher.

Into this mix comes new data from scientists working with EDF’s PermianMAP initiative showing that methane emissions in the Permian Basin, the world’s largest oil field, is nearly three times the rate reported in Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide statistics.

The 3.5% loss rate estimated in the data area is roughly 15 times higher than reduction targets set by leading producers, and significantly higher than many companies have reported. It translates to 1.4 million tons of wasted gas each year, enough to meet the annual natural gas needs of every home in Dallas and Houston combined.

The findings surface a material risk to oil and gas investors and to the future of natural gas from the Permian Basin. At current emissions rates from the basin, burning Permian natural gas for electricity does more near-term climate damage than coal.

A year from now, the U.S. oil and gas sector may look very different for many of the independent operators who make up a large portion of Permian producers. Withstanding this period of economic turbulence will require companies to make tough decisions. Yet even in this time of crisis, operators must keep an eye on future market demands, operational excellence and climate performance.

Permian study findings

The Permian sprawls across West Texas and New Mexico and has more than 100,000 operating well sites. Between October 2019 and March 2020, EDF scientists collaborated with academic institutions to collect data using tower-based monitors, ground-based mobile sensors, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft across a 10,000-square-kilometer study area responsible for 40% of Permian production.

The estimated 3.5% leak rate reflected in the new data stands in stark contrast to the .20% leakage rate agreed to by the 13 of the world’s largest operators in the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, representing 30% of global oil and gas production. Furthermore, the emissions rate seen in the Permian is more than 10 times the methane intensity of 0.29% that OGCI has been reporting for 2018.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed