Dr. Jason Gu was still a graduate student when he developed the technology behind SenSevere, a start-up that creates laser-based gas sensors for use in heavy industry and power plants. Today, he’s working to apply this technology to methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, making him one of the many entrepreneurs developing solutions to tackle the problem. His fascination with innovation isn’t just making his clients more efficient—it may also be saving the planet.
The hidden cost of methane
Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a powerful pollutant responsible for a quarter of the global warming we feel today. The oil and gas industry releases 7 million tons of it into the atmosphere every year through emissions from oil and gas fields and associated pipelines, resulting in over a billion dollars’ worth of wasted American energy resources. And, toxic chemicals like benzene, a known carcinogen, can accompany methane emissions, posing a potential threat to public health.
“The industry is beginning to become more sensitized to the fact that methane is an aggressive greenhouse gas,” said James Armstrong, president of Apogee Scientific, a Colorado-based methane mitigation company. For more than 15 years, Apogee has manufactured a methane detection system that uses a vacuum and infrared sensors and can be mounted to trucks, ATVs and helicopters to identify leaks in the field. “If you find the leaks and repair them, you’re not only helping the environment…you’re extending the resource.” Read More
Today, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its latest World Energy Outlook, which projects how global energy systems will evolve between now and 2040 and estimates their relative impact on the climate. This annual report always offers important insight into where some of the world’s top experts see the global energy sector heading. But what’s particularly striking this year is its highlight on oil and gas methane, among other interesting conclusions.
The report confirms and builds on IEA’s findings from earlier this summer — that global emissions could peak by 2020 without slowing economic growth, and that reducing methane emissions from the world’s oil and gas industry is one of the fastest, biggest opportunities to make significant climate progress now.
In particular, the gas chapter includes this important takeaway:
"The oil and gas sector is the largest industrial source of methane emissions, a potent contributor to climate change. Outside North America, the absence of robust policy action in this area represents a major missed opportunity to tackle near-term warming. The available evidence suggests that a relatively small number of emitters may account for a large share of overall emissions, but tracking and fixing these leaks – which can be short-lived and intermittent – requires a systematic effort of measurement, reporting and monitoring, backed up by effective regulation." Read More
In case you missed it, PBS NewsHour recently took a close look at an issue EDF has been deeply involved in: oil and gas methane emissions.
PBS captured what many across the country have experienced for years – frustration with a significant waste and pollution problem. U.S. oil and gas drillers emit millions of tons of methane into the air every year. This pollution increases global warming and deteriorates air quality. As impacted rancher Don Schreiber in Gobernador, New Mexico told the reporter, the problem is “sobering.” Read More
A recent study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) concludes that the way a utility charges customers can greatly influence whether they will install solar panels. It is a timely analysis because utilities across the country are redesigning their rate structures to accommodate our changing electricity system, which is becoming cleaner and more efficient than ever before.
What’s unfortunate is that some utilities are intentionally trying to destroy customers’ incentive to install solar panels. Why? Because rooftop solar reduces shareholder profits and revenue for utilities.
Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), a solar industry trade group, reports that in 2014, residential customers installed solar panels at an astounding 36 percent growth rate compared to 2013. But the LBNL study says the rate design changes now being proposed by utilities across the country could slash solar panel growth up to 60 percent. Clearly, poorly designed rate changes could devastate the potential for solar panels to help transform the electricity sector. Regulators should not let this happen.
Utilities have the opportunity to change their rate design to provide incentives for more solar adoption while also recouping investments and properly balancing their books. Read More
The Clean Power Plan is now officially in business and protecting the health and safety of all Americans.
The Clean Power Plan establishes America’s first-ever nationwide limits on harmful carbon pollution from our nation’s largest source, power plants. It builds on years of stakeholder engagement and input, and adopts a flexible approach that empowers states to develop their own individually tailored compliance plans that reflect their own policy priorities.
Power Companies Are Working With States to Craft Compliance Plans
Major power companies have recognized the opportunities available with home-grown compliance plans that fully harvest state flexibility and the potential of a low-carbon economy. Xcel Energy, for example, just announced plans to cut carbon emissions across its Northern States Power system by 60 percent by 2030, at negligible cost to consumers. Read More
By: Keith Gaby
Everyone in Colorado skis, all Oklahomans can rope a calf, and native New Jerseyans like me all talk like Pauly D did onJersey Shore. Right?
You may also stereotype when it comes to clean energy: Progressive states such as California are pumping out clean, renewable energy while others insist on clinging to old, dirty power plants. Well, it’s more complicated than that.
California, which has a market-based system for cutting carbon pollution, does lead the country. But a number of states nationwide, including notably Nevada, Texas and North Carolina, are also making great progress on clean energy – which may surprise some.
Their success is evidence that the supposed divide on clean power may be more about politics than economics and opportunities on the ground.
And that bodes well for the federal Clean Power Plan’s goal of reducing emissions from America’s power plants. Because if Texas is well-positioned to comply, why couldn’t other states do the same? Read More