The Continuing Quest for Energy – and Lower Emissions
Posted October 14, 2019
Looking over EPA’s new Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (GHGRP) data on methane emissions, let’s consider two overarching points:
First, energy from natural gas and oil power and empower America’s modern way of life – better health, greater comforts and conveniences and opportunities for Americans and their families to prosper. No other energy comes close in terms of accessibility, reliability, affordability and useful adaptability across an economy and nation as large and diverse as ours.
Second, as America’s natural gas and oil industry produces the energy we count on every day, it also must continue to capture as much methane as possible from that production, to help the U.S. meet its climate objectives.
On both of those leading priorities, our industry is on it.
So, what of that new GHGRP report showing an 0.7% uptick in methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems in 2018?
The real metric to watch is industry’s rate of emissions, measuring how much methane is lost, relative to production. This gauges industry’s growing effectiveness in capturing methane and lowering emissions during a period of record production – an 11% increase in gross natural gas production last year and a nearly 17% increase in the production of crude oil and natural gas liquids. While we can’t compare the sample provided by the GHGRP to our record national production levels, this data suggests the emissions rate actually improved, year over year.
That said, we in industry have a goal of a 0.0% emissions rate, and we’re highly motivated to reach it.
We’re deploying technologies and engaged in collaborative initiatives such as The Environmental Partnership – building on progress that saw methane emissions from U.S. natural gas systems decrease 14% between 1990 and 2017 – during which production increased 50%. A separate study by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration also found there was no significant increase in total U.S. methane emissions, while domestic natural gas production increased.
Significantly lowering industry’s emissions rate has occurred in major U.S. producing basins. For example, while production in the Permian Basin grew 170% from 2011 to 2018, methane emissions relative to that production fell by nearly 45% (calculated from EPA’s GHGRP and U.S. Energy Information Administration data). In the Eagle Ford over the same time period, production grew 140% while the methane emissions rate fell by more than 70%.
Here’s another important benchmark: The Environmental Partnership’s 67 participating companies – including 32 of the nation’s top 40 natural gas producers – reported a leak occurrence rate of 0.16% last year, underscoring the participants’ work to find and fix emissions sources.
The takeaway point is that as our industry continues to break production records and power economic growth, there’s noteworthy progress toward the goal of containing virtually all methane and zeroing out emissions. It’s a strong argument for our contention – that the United States can continue to grow its energy resources and economy while also reducing emissions through technology, innovation and cooperation among producers. Howard Feldman, API senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs:
“In 2017 and through today, a longer period of time than is represented in the sample data this report has collected, the industry has invested in critical new pipeline infrastructure to gather remote natural gas and oil production. Expanding energy infrastructure, including pipelines, tanks and terminals, is the best way to improve air quality, reduce flaring and remove trucks from roads and highways. Abundant resources, advancing technologies and the addition of new pipeline capacity means Americans don’t have to choose between reliable, affordable energy and the environment.”
The natural gas and oil industry supports smart, effective regulation that fosters innovation and furthers emissions reductions. America’s energy revolution is providing broad benefits to consumers, businesses and manufacturers. It also is benefiting the environment; the increased use of natural gas is the primary reason U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are at their lowest levels in a generation.
We can have growth, environmental protection and climate progress together. Our industry is helping lead the way.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and six grandchildren.