Energy Exchange

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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Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Methane regulatons, New Mexico, PermianMAP, 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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Posted in Air Quality, Climate, Methane, Natural Gas, PermianMAP / Comments are closed

Fayetteville Shale methane emissions dominated by manual unloadings; National methane emissions are still too high, and avoidable

A new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) offers new granularity and insight into a study appearing earlier this year in Science, which found that higher-than-reported methane emissions across the U.S. oil and gas industry methane emissions are largely the result of abnormal operating conditions at a variety of oil and gas facilities across the supply chain.

The new paper, led by researchers from Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others, zeros in on the phenomenon of super emitters, with a specific focus on Arkansas’ Fayetteville Shale.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

New EPA data confirms methane emissions not declining fast enough

Last week EPA released its annual data from large emitters, called the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP). It is not a comprehensive account of all methane emissions (for that, check out our methane synthesis paper published earlier this year) but it does provided us with an important snapshot of 2017 oil and gas methane emissions.

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Posted in California, Colorado, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Wyoming / Comments are closed

EPA’s updated annual oil and gas methane inventory doesn’t convey entire picture

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual update to the 2016 U.S. Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGI) yesterday, showing a slight decrease in total greenhouse gas emissions from 2015 to 2016.

Methane, a potent greenhouse gas and the main constituent of natural gas, is responsible for roughly a quarter of global warming we see today. The GHGI estimates that 2016 methane emissions from the oil and gas industry were 8.37 million metric tons, down just over one percent from 2015 levels.

This decrease is misleading – it’s too slight a dip to indicate that industry is getting a better handle on methane. Studies also suggest that the inventory misses vast amounts of emissions from abnormal process conditions, or super-emitters.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed

National Academy of Sciences urges collective research improvements to track U.S. methane emissions

This week the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS), the nation’s most prestigious scientific organization, issued a report calling for a stepped-up nationwide research effort to develop a gridded and verifiable inventory of U.S. methane emissions.

The NAS report, sponsored by the U.S. EPA, Department of Energy (DOE), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and NASA, noted atmospheric methane has risen dramatically in the 20th century, hitting a spike in 2016 that has tripled since pre-industrial times.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas responsible for about 25% of current global warming.

The report discusses all the major U.S. sources of anthropogenic methane emissions, including petroleum and natural gas systems, agriculture, landfills, and coal mines. Researchers acknowledged the rapid increase in natural gas production in the U.S. during the past decade has triggered the need for a better understanding of the energy industry’s methane footprint. The NAS report classified oil and gas as one of three primary research priorities for the future, along rice farming, and livestock.

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Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Comments are closed