By David Lyon and Adam Peltz
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
A 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
After 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
As oil and gas leaders converge on Houston for the year’s largest industry conference, CERA Week, falling oil and gas prices are understandably top of mind and a cause for concern for the industry. But there is another decline story underway in industry, one that poses a risk to the future of hydrocarbons in a carbon constrained world – a story of falling trust.
While today’s $30 oil price is disruptive in the short-term, new information on the very low level of public trust in the oil and gas industry should prompt concern from executives and investors about possible longer-term disruption to companies’ social license to operate.
The Industry’s Public Trust Problem
Recent polling conducted by KRC Research for EDF found that a mere 29 percent of Americans trust oil and gas companies to operate responsibly. Strikingly, even among Republicans, the trust rate is under 40 percent.
Digging deeper into the numbers, just 15 percent of Americans trust the oil and gas industry to be accurate in disclosing how much pollution they cause.
So what do these results mean? Read More
By: Mark Brownstein & Tim O'Connor
The nearly four-month disaster at the Aliso Canyon storage facility owned by Southern California Gas Company has spurred widespread calls to close the sprawling underground reservoir, and cast intense scrutiny on the 13 other similar facilities around California. But others, including Governor Jerry Brown and key state agencies, say the facilities may be needed to keep the electric grid running reliably.
Ironically, one reason for dependence on this fossil fuel is California’s renewable energy boom.
As things currently stand, there aren’t enough responsive resources on the grid to simultaneously manage the large daily swings in consumer electricity demand typical in California and swings in renewable energy output due to variations in time of day and weather.
A more robust grid in combination with innovative energy storage and energy management technology will eventually reduce these swings, but may take decades to fully deploy. Until then, fast-acting gas-fired generation is necessary for balancing system operations. This has become a rallying cry for SoCalGas and the rest of California’s oil and gas industry in the wake of Aliso Canyon. Read More
The ongoing leak at the Aliso Canyon natural gas facility owned by Southern California Gas has driven more than 2,000 families from their homes in the Porter Ranch area of Los Angeles and prompted Gov. Brown to declare a state of emergency. It’s dumped an estimated 83 thousand metric tons of methane into the atmosphere so far (see our leak counter here), with no clear end in sight.
But what are the next steps from here? What are the wider implications of this continuing disaster; and where else could something like this happen? What do we do to prevent another Aliso, and how will Southern California make up for the environmental damages once the leak stops?
The troubling fact is that Aliso Canyon is just the tip of a very big iceberg, reflecting both the industry’s widespread methane problem, and the potential local risks of over 400 other storage facilities nationwide. It spotlights a longstanding, largely invisible problem, promising to shift political dynamics around solutions. And the penalty phase, when it comes, will hopefully codify important principles that will also have a big effect on industry behavior. Read More