In the summer of 2013, researchers aboard a four-engine P-3 Orion aircraft – a variant of the plane used by the U.S. Navy to track submarines – flew over three of the nation’s biggest shale gas regions, taking measurements that would allow them to estimate the amount of methane leaking from the production fields below.
The team from University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory published their findings this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, adding new depth to our understanding of methane leaks, but also underscoring important questions.
Comparing their readings to production figures for the region, they estimated a total leak rate of 0.18 to 2.8 percent, which is at the low end of the range of findings in other research. For some, this may be cause for celebration.
But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet. Read More
Posted in Methane, Natural Gas Also tagged Methane
After months of anticipation, the Obama Administration this month released its new methane emissions strategy – a plan that opens up new opportunities for industry writ large, and especially for operators that want to cut waste and get ahead.
The centerpiece of the strategy are imminent rules that will help us meet a new national goal to reduce harmful methane pollution from oil and natural gas operations by 45 percent by 2025.
But the rules also bring direct industry benefits. Here are four reasons the new methane emissions strategy is a boon, rather than bane, for America’s $1.2-trillion oil and gas sector:
1. It tackles $1.8 billion in annual waste and adds market certainty
Leaky infrastructure and unnecessary venting across the oil and gas value chain cost an estimated $1.8 billion in wasted product and lost revenue annually.
The new rules require companies to include up-to-date controls as they build out new and modified infrastructure, keeping gas in the pipeline while making new facilities more efficient. Read More
When the White House announced ambitious plans to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 45 percent, EDF President Fred Krupp called it a landmark move. And according, to a recent poll, 66 percent of Americans agree that strong federal standards are needed to safeguard our air from methane pollution, which is responsible for about a quarter of today’s warming. The oil and gas industry– the largest industrial source of this climate pollutant–wastes enough unburned methane each year to heat six million homes.
The plan has drawn widespread support among opinion leaders as well as industry experts.
Wyoming has a long history of living with the oil and gas industry that goes back to the nineteenth century, but that doesn’t mean that new drilling projects in new parts of the state don’t get the public’s attention. New neighbors are always a source of local interest and an approach to air quality regulations that includes different requirements for different parts of the state can lead local residents to ask what new oil and gas development will mean for their neighborhoods, for their air, and for their quality of life.
If the robust turnout of several hundred people at two recent public meetings in Laramie and Converse counties is any indication, there is significant interest in how potentially rapid oil and gas development could impact local communities. Read More
Source: Dan Lurie
At first glance, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Sept. 30 press release looked like a winner: Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector dropped by 12 percent in 2013, with a whopping 73-percent decline from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells making up the largest share of reductions.
The drop in methane emissions shows how effective regulation is in reducing air pollution from oil and gas production. It was led by an early phase of EPA’s air pollution rules, enacted in October 2012, with full implementation expected by January 2015. (Although this regulation targets emissions of volatile organic compounds, it has also reduced methane as a co-benefit.)
Except, the 73- percent decline is not the whole story. It only accounts for 2.3 percent of the total methane emissions reported to EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program, leaving a large amount of tons on the table addressed.
Everyone agrees that burning off as much as a third of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is a terrible waste of an important natural resource. The flaring problem arises out of the fact that energy companies are primarily drilling for oil in North Dakota. A lot of natural gas comes out of those very same wells, though; and since the infrastructure isn’t in place to take that gas to market, companies end up flaring gas as a “waste” byproduct of oil production.
This isn’t a problem that can be fixed overnight. Building the gathering systems, processing capacity and transmission pipelines to get this gas to market requires major planning and investment. But we also have to recognize that in a capital-constrained world, the incentive is for companies to put their next dollar toward the next oil well – not toward lower-return (but still lucrative) investments in gas infrastructure. If a company’s bottom line was all that mattered, that might be fine. But we have other issues at play here.
Flaring natural gas undermines national energy security, has negative impacts on the region’s air quality, results in unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions and represents millions of dollars of lost revenue for the state, local governments, schools and mineral estate owners. In fact, in 2012 alone, flaring resulted in the waste of around $1 billion in fuel – or enough gas to heat more than a million homes.