Energy Exchange

Federal pipeline agency has essential opportunity to reduce methane emissions

By Erin Murphy and Elgie Holstein

The Biden administration recently directed gas pipeline companies to explain how they will minimize emissions of methane, which is both a potent greenhouse pollutant and the primary component of natural gas. This is the first step in implementing the PIPES Act of 2020, which Congress passed last year detailing new oversight requirements with an enhanced focus on environmental protection as well as safety.

Methane has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during the first 20 years after release, which makes pipeline emissions a crucial element in a national climate strategy.

Natural gas pipelines emit methane through unintended leakage and deliberate operational releases. Researchers estimate that distribution pipelines alone have about 630,000 leaks emitting 690 thousand tons of methane annually — five times higher than estimated in the U.S. EPA greenhouse gas inventory.

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Also posted in Air Quality / Comments are closed

What new Permian research means for U.S. methane policy

By Dan Grossman and Ben Hmiel

Newly released research is shedding more light on the largest sources of methane emissions in the nation’s largest oilfield.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas and has a huge impact on the current rate of global warming. The oil and gas industry is one of the biggest emitters.

Using a helicopter equipped with an infrared camera, we surveyed over a thousand sites across the Permian Basin to get specific information about the types of facilities, equipment and events that make the Permian Basin the highest-polluting oilfield in the country. Three things immediately stood out.

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

Methane controls mean cleaner air on the Navajo Nation

By Megan Kelly and Jon Goldstein

Policy action at both the tribal and federal levels this spring is creating promising momentum for cutting down on methane pollution on the Navajo Nation and across the Colorado Plateau, a step in the right direction for tackling climate change. Reducing methane waste would also improve public health and bring much-needed revenue to tribal and state governments.

In late April 2021, the Senate voted to restore an Obama-era U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rule to regulate methane emissions from oil and gas drilling. The Trump administration had previously rolled back this rule and eliminated federal requirements that oil and gas companies detect and fix methane leaks from their operations.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly from Arizona; Sens. Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Luján from New Mexico; and Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper from Colorado, all voted in favor of moving toward reinstating those important requirements.

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Also posted in Air Quality, Methane, Methane regulatons, New Mexico / Comments are closed

Texas forms new group to weigh pros, cons of repurposing oilfield wastewater

Some Texas leaders and oil and gas industry advocates have for years promoted the idea that produced water — the wastewater generated through oil and gas development — has a role to play in meeting broad water needs in our state. However, the state has a limited understanding of the chemicals in this wastewater and how programs to reuse it outside the oilfield could be practiced safely, if at all.

Acknowledging the necessity to better understand treatment needs, economic challenges, and public health and environmental risks of industry’s wastewater, the Texas Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 601, establishing a Texas Produced Water Consortium. The consortium will be housed at Texas Tech University, and will bring together a wide swath of agency advisors, technical experts and key stakeholders to consider these issues and produce a report with recommendations over the next year. The group is charged with suggesting legal and regulatory changes to better enable beneficial uses, identifying pilot projects and assessing the economics of using produced water both efficiently but also in a way that protects public health and the environment.

Answering these questions will be no easy feat, and Texas should definitely not encourage beneficial reuse until it can confidently answer tough questions about safety.

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Also posted in produced water / Comments are closed

4 opportunities for gas utilities to accelerate the energy transition today

A troubling story recently emerged about a group of gas utilities whose mission is to fight electrification. While the leaked materials alone don’t explain the full extent of the group’s efforts, it was unsettling to see baseless, fear-driven tactics such as “take advantage of power outage fear,” to make people wary of electrification. Instead of blocking progress to safe, affordable, clean energy, gas utilities concerned with the future should be taking steps today to accelerate the energy transition.

Several analyses make clear that electrification of commercial and residential buildings will play a predominant role in achieving state climate goals. Take New Jersey, for example, where residential and commercial buildings account for the second largest share of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to modeling done by the state, in order to achieve its climate goals of 80% emission reductions by 2050, residential and commercial sector emissions must be reduced by 89%.

To achieve this level of emission reductions, New Jersey has found that “policies requiring net-zero emissions for new construction must be paired with aggressive requirements for electrification of older residential and commercial buildings as soon as practicable.” In other words, the last thing we should be doing is fighting efforts to electrify.

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Also posted in Gas to Clean, Methane, New Jersey, New York / Comments are closed

Maximizing the historic job creation opportunity waiting in our nation’s old and leaking oil and gas wells

After over 150 years of boom and bust oil and gas development, there are over a million inactive, unplugged oil and gas wells across the country. A new study published in the journal Elementa describes how, when not properly plugged, these wells can contaminate groundwater and emit methane as well as harmful chemicals into the atmosphere that endanger the economy and public health in communities where they are found. It also provides suggestions for how to maximize the environmental benefits of efforts to plug these wells.

There are 57,000 documented “orphan” wells across the country, meaning they have no owner of record, at least not one that’s still in business, and hundreds of thousands more orphan wells that are not documented. State, federal and tribal governments are left with the responsibility of plugging these wells – some of which have been abandoned for decades.

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Also posted in Methane, Pennsylvania / Comments are closed