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Tackling Methane Pollution Even When Oil and Gas Markets are Down

9148692_e7baa12adf_oWhen the White House confirmed plans to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas sector — not just from new or heavily modified facilities, but thousands of existing wells, pipelines and other facilities that are currently emitting at least 9.3 million metric tons of the invisible heat-trapping gas each year — industry responded with the usual complaints about back-breaking costs.

Unlike recent years, those objections come with a twist: The widespread (and very real) challenges in an oil and gas sector struggling with a global supply glut and sharply lower prices, both enabled by the same unconventional production technologies that fueled the boom in the first place. We simply shouldn’t impose new regulations in a down market, the industry says.

To be clear: There’s no disputing these are tough times for oil and gas. Hard working Americans have lost good jobs by the tens of thousands. Communities are suffering. It’s a cycle familiar to anyone who’s been around the industry, even if that doesn't make it any easier on people living through it now. Read More »

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Do Lower Gas Prices Alter Conclusion of the ICF Study on Methane Reduction Costs?

hqdefaultLast week, the industry-sponsored Energy In Depth (EID) launched a critique of an analysis by ICF International showing that oil and gas companies can achieve major reductions in their methane emissions at relatively modest cost relative to the price of the natural gas they’re selling. In particular, EID emphasizes that natural gas prices have fallen substantially since the study was done, undercutting the result.

It’s true that natural gas prices have dropped, but the basic conclusion of the study still stands. While commodity prices fluctuate, the fundamental rationale for action hasn’t changed. In fact, over the same timeframe, EPA and other estimates of industry emissions have increased dramatically.

The bottom line is that reducing oil and gas methane emissions remains one of the biggest, most cost-effective opportunities we have for addressing climate change. Read More »

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Real Action on Paris Commitments as the US and Canada Announce Methane Targets

canada CAC graphicIt was a big week in Canada-US relations. For the first time in 19 years, the White House hosted the Canadian Prime Minister for a state dinner. And for good measure, President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau announced a renewed collaboration to combat climate change starting with methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases.

Under the pact, the United States and Canada committed to reduce oil and gas methane gas emissions by 40-45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025. Both countries also said the goal would be met by developing regulations for existing sources as well as new ones – a crucial concern – and challenged other countries to adopt similarly aggressive oil and gas methane goals.

This new level of cooperation will deliver significant progress for both Canada and the United States toward achieving their emissions reduction commitments set at the Paris climate talks held this past December. Read More »

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Paying Attention to "Orphan" Wells Pays Off

By David Lyon and Adam Peltzabandoned well

There are at more than 1.5 million inactive oil and gas wells in the U.S. that remain uncapped and, in some cases, unsafe. Some are temporarily dormant, while others are fully depleted but not yet properly sealed, continuing to emit residual pollution from the days when they were active. Many are what the industry calls “orphans,” with no financially solvent owner in sight to take the responsibility for them. Long seen as a water protection issue, a new study in the journal Geophysical Research Letters now shows that properly plugging unused wells can also reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane.

The study looks at orphaned and plugged wells in four oil and gas producing regions of the country – Colorado’s Denver-Julesburg Basin; Ohio’s Appalachian Basin; Wyoming’s Powder River Basin; and Utah’s Uinta Basin. It is part of a series of 16 major studies organized by Environmental Defense Fund to better understand the scale and scope of oil and gas methane emissions. Read More »

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Moving Up: New Accounting Shows Full Scale of Aliso Canyon and U.S. Methane Leaks

rp_AlisoCanyon4-300x209.jpgA paper today in the journal Science, estimating emissions from the massive methane leak at Aliso Canyon, indicates that nearly 100,000 metric tons of methane escaped into the atmosphere over Southern California – more than previous estimates. The new findings come days after the Environmental Protection Agency released draft results of their updated accounting of methane emissions from the nation’s oil and gas supply chain that shows that emissions are up 27% above the agency’s early estimate.

The more we know about methane emissions, the higher they get. The new findings show not just the massive scale of the oil and gas industry’s methane problem, but also how critical it is to get the science right to both understand this source of a potent climate pollutant and reduce it. We know that cutting methane is one of the fastest, most cost effective ways to curb today’s warming, and when combined with critical efforts to reduce carbon dioxide pollution, substantial climate progress can be made. Read More »

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Coming Soon: Solutions for Finding Methane Leaks Faster

porter-ranch-aliso-canyon-methane-gas-leak-3-1020x610After more than four months of spewing potent methane pollution, the massive Aliso Canyon gas leak has finally been plugged. But now the state of California and the utility that owns the site, SoCalGas, are left with the responsibility of ensuring a disaster like this doesn’t happen again.

While Aliso Canyon has captured the attention of the nation, it’s important to remember that there are smaller—and far more prevalent—leaks happening throughout the country’s oil and gas supply chain every day. In fact, those emissions add up to more than 7 million metric tons of methane pollution every year.  That equals over $1 billion worth of wasted natural gas at 2015 prices. Read More »

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