Energy Exchange

A year of data and one clear message: Permian flaring remains a major problem

By Colin Leyden and Ben Hmiel

Even amidst a global pandemic and market volatility that reduced oil and gas activity, at least one thing didn’t change in the Permian last year: operators can’t seem to keep their flares lit.

Throughout 2020, EDF conducted aerial surveys of portions of the Permian Basin to determine the performance of natural gas flares. Even when done properly, flaring is a wasteful, polluting practice that has earned industry “a black eye.” But when flares malfunction they also become major sources of highly potent, climate-polluting methane.

Over the course of 2020, we conducted periodic surveys of flares in various parts of the Permian. These took place in February, March, June and November, and included a series of consecutive, repeat surveys of one specific area on November 2, 4 and 6 meant to understand how long flare malfunctions persist. In total, we studied nearly 1,200 flares in the region.

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Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, PermianMAP, Texas / Comments are closed

How oil & gas states did (and did not) protect land and water in 2020

More than 30 states actively regulate oil and gas development with a variety of practices and rules designed to reduce health, safety and environmental impacts. States engage in a process of continuous improvement by adopting new rules and practices as technologies and risk mitigation techniques evolve — even in an extraordinary year like 2020. EDF tracks state trends in oil and gas regulation related to the protection of land, water and local communities, reporting notable state actions each year.

2020 presented multiple challenges for the oil and gas industry and state regulators, including the twin shocks of an OPEC price war and a steep decline in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, many states showed strong commitment to ensuring environmental integrity by adopting critical new rules across a variety of topics.

Here are the big things we saw in 2020.

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Also posted in Methane, Natural Gas, produced water / Comments are closed

What Biden’s methane focus means for energy industry, its investors

A journey of miles starts with a single step, and for the U.S. oil and gas industry and its financiers, supporting strong and swift methane regulation by the incoming Biden administration is a big step on the road to climate progress.

Cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is the single fastest thing we can do to limit the rate at which our climate is warming. There is no more impactful way to make up for lost time than finally instituting stringent standards to slash methane emissions from all sources across industry.

That’s because the emissions problem is egregious, the technology solutions abundant and cost effective, and the policy routes straightforward.

The old voluntary versus regulatory debate is behind us. Now, with the Biden administration firmly committed to reducing oil and gas methane emissions, a new era has begun.

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Also posted in Methane, PermianMAP / Comments are closed

5 opportunities for renewed American climate leadership on methane

With Joe Biden winning the 2020 U.S. presidency, attention now shifts to how his administration will prioritize domestic and international climate action in the context of COVID-19 and its related economic repercussions.

Among the most powerful elements of a reinvigorated American climate strategy is assertive action to reduce methane pollution. At least 25% of today’s global warming is caused by methane emissions from human activities, including production and use of fossil fuels, agriculture and municipal waste. One of the world’s largest sources of manmade methane pollution is the oil and gas industry.

Oil and gas methane emissions also present a particularly important climate opportunity, as it offers the most immediate and lowest cost option to reduce a potent greenhouse gas.

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Also posted in Canada, Methane / Comments are closed

Will Trudeau make good on Canada’s 2025 climate promises?

This piece was originally published in The Hill Times

A lot can change in a short period of time.

Just a few months ago, I lauded Canada’s leadership on climate, in general, and on methane pollution in particular. In 2018, the Trudeau government introduced the world’s first national oil and gas regulations limiting emissions of methane, a powerful climate pollutant intensifying near-term global warming.

Then, in the wake of the global health and economic crisis, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $1.7 billion Emission Reduction Fund to help put oil and gas workers back to work cleaning up tens of thousands of leaky abandoned wells. The investment combined with a $750 million fund to reduce methane and other pollution from oil and gas infrastructure would create up to 10,000 jobs and help stabilize the climate.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Canada, Methane / Comments are closed

Another study reveals Permian methane levels are abnormally high, reinforcing need for action

By Jon Goldstein and David Lyon

A new peer-reviewed study published today once again confirms the Permian Basin has some of the leakiest oil and gas wells in the country.

For the study, researchers with the University of Wyoming used a mobile methane laboratory to quantify emissions from 46 randomly selected well pads in New Mexico and 25 in Texas. They found those sites are emitting between 5 to 9 times more methane pollution than The Environmental Protection Agency estimates suggest.

This granular look at well pad emissions is a critical part of understanding what is causing the emissions. Earlier this year, EDF used this data to estimate total methane emissions across New Mexico and concluded the state was likely emitting up to one million metric tons of methane per year.

When combined with other measurement techniques, we can get an even clearer sense of the entire region’s methane footprint. The satellite-based TROPOMI methane instrument, as well as aerial surveys conducted through our PermianMAP project — can detect emissions from other types of oil and gas equipment.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Natural Gas, New Mexico, Texas / Comments are closed