Energy Exchange

Study Shows Utilities And Regulators Making Progress On Methane Leaks, But A Major Emissions Problem Remains

Thpipelinemethaneemissionse most important takeaway from a study released today by Washington State University (WSU) is that despite improvements, large amounts of methane continue to leak from the nation’s local natural gas systems. Because methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, these yearly emissions are comparable to the CO2 from as many as 19 coal-fired power plants.

The estimated value of the gas escaping each year, by the way, is up to $195 million.

Although these figures represent a major ongoing challenge for gas utilities, they do reflect substantial improvement over the past two decades, thanks to a combination of effort and investment by utilities, along with a series of both state and federal policy changes enacted since 1992.

The new findings reinforce the fact that when regulators and companies both set their minds to fixing a problem, they can get some pretty good results. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a particularly powerful climate warmer – 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released to the atmosphere.

While they remain a serious problem, the ongoing utility emissions also represent an important opportunity for companies and regulators to make a big dent in greenhouse pollution. EDF believes the study underscores three major areas where improvement is necessary: Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Language: / Read 2 Responses

Reducing Carbon Pollution From The Power Sector Without Building Thousands Of Miles Of New Pipelines

rp_pipeline-Source-Maureen-flickr-300x225.jpgWith the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon pollution from the nation’s power plants nearing finalization, all sides are looking closely at the capacity of our existing infrastructure to deliver emission reductions from the power sector — including the natural gas infrastructure that could help reduce the need for aging, carbon-intensive coal-fired generation.

Some opponents of the Clean Power Plan say we need to invest billions of dollars in thousands of miles of new pipelines, while environmentalists, clean energy advocates and others are concerned that investments in new pipelines serves to reinforce fossil fuel dependence.

What policymakers and regulators need to know is this: Right now, 46 percent of the pipeline capacity that already exists isn’t being used, according to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Yes, 46 percent.

Figures like this mean everybody needs to rethink the whole infrastructure equation, and how to balance it most effectively. Read More »

Posted in Gas to Clean, Natural Gas / Language: / Comments are closed

Federal Proposal to Update Natural Gas Transportation Market Would Benefit Environment

pipeline Source Maureen flickrHow much does the design of America’s energy market affect the environment? More than one might expect.

Last week, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the agency responsible for regulating the wholesale natural gas and electricity markets, issued a proposed policy statement designed to encourage pipeline operators to replace their leakiest equipment: compressor stations. Reciprocating compressors are an essential part of the nation’s gas delivery system. They help move natural gas through cross-country pipelines to utilities that then deliver the fuel to its end customer. A challenge, however, is that aging compressor stations are more likely to leak as they help pump the gas to its final destination, and hundreds of these units have not been updated since the 1940’s. These leak-prone units are one of the largest sources of methane emissions —a potent greenhouse gas that can also cause explosions in some cases.

The cost to replace just one “vintage” unit can be tens of millions of dollars — one reason pipeline operators have been slow to update this equipment. Fortunately, FERC’s new proposal would provide a pathway for pipelines operators to recover the significant cost of refitting their systems with modern, safer, and more efficient compressors. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas / Tagged | Language: / Read 1 Response