Energy Tomorrow Blog
Posted January 15, 2015
As we look at the Obama administration’s plan to impose new regulations on methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations, some important points.
First, when it comes to methane emissions, the White House is focusing on a relatively small piece of the big picture. Data from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program shows that methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems (161.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) represent just 28.5 percent of total methane emissions (567.3 million metric tons CO2 equivalent). That’s a fairly small wedge in the overall pie.
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Posted December 31, 2014
So long, 2014. From an energy standpoint, you’ll be missed. Let’s count the ways:
Surging domestic oil and natural gas production – largely thanks to safe hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling – is driving an American energy revolution that’s creating jobs here at home and greater security for the United States in the world.
It’s a revolution with macro-economic and geopolitical impacts, for sure. But it’s also a revolution that’s benefit virtually every American.
Posted December 9, 2014
New research by the University of Texas shows what other studies have shown: methane emissions from natural gas production are lower than previously estimated. The UT study found that emissions represent just 0.38 percent of production – about 10 percent lower than a 2013 study by the same research team.
The UT study checked two sources of methane emissions in natural gas production: processes to clear wells of accumulated liquids to increase production, called liquid unloadings; and pneumatic controller devices that open and close valves.
The study found that just 19 percent of pneumatic devices accounted for 95 percent of emissions from that equipment, and that just 20 percent of wells with unloading emissions that vent to the atmosphere accounted for 65 percent to 85 percent of those emissions. David Allen, the study’s principal investigator:
“To put this in perspective, over the past several decades, 10 percent of the cars on the road have been responsible for the majority of automotive exhaust pollution. Similarly, a small group of sources within these two categories are responsible for the vast majority of pneumatic and unloading emissions at natural gas production sites.”
The results suggest that technologies and practices already in use by industry – voluntary efforts and those to comply with federal green completions rules that become standard in January – are working to reduce methane leaks.
Posted December 9, 2014
The Hill: Methane leaks from natural gas drilling and production have fallen from the last estimate more than a year ago, according to a study sponsored by the industry and an environmental group.
Leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, now represent 0.38 percent of production volumes, according to the study released Tuesday.
That is 10 percent lower than what the same University of Texas research team found in September 2013. Methane is a greenhouse has about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
“Study after study shows that industry-led efforts to reduce emissions through investments in new technologies and equipment are paying off,” Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement.
“This latest study shows that methane emissions are a fraction of estimates from just a few years ago,” he said.
Posted December 3, 2014
New Orleans Times-Picayune: After more than a decade of work and a $7.5 billion investment, Chevron has started oil and gas production at its Jack and St. Malo fields in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico. The fields are among the largest in the region, expected to produce more than 500 million barrels of oil equivalent over the next three decades.
The Jack and St. Malo fields, discovered in 2003 and 2004 respectively, are located 25 miles apart in the Walker Ridge region of the Gulf about 280 miles south of New Orleans.
Oil and gas from the fields will flow back to a single, floating production platform located between the two fields. The platform has the capacity to produce up to 170,000 barrels of oil and 42 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Posted November 26, 2014
The New York Times has an editorial urging Washington to regulate emissions of methane – no surprise as “The Gray Lady” has to uphold her “green” bonafides. But methane as an “overlooked” greenhouse gas, as the editorial’s headline states? Hardly.
While the Times may have just discovered methane, industry has been working to reduce emissions – and is succeeding, at a rate that casts doubt on the need for a new federal regulatory layer.
Posted October 22, 2014
This from Judi Greenwald, the Energy Department’s deputy director for climate, environment and efficiency, talking about methane regulation during a panel discussion this week (as reported by Fuel Fix.com):
“We know enough to act. There are uncertainties about methane emissions — and part of the administration’s strategy is to improve our numbers — but we know enough to take some action, and this problem may be easier to solve than many characterize.”
While others talk about methane and problem solving, industry already is significantly lowering methane emissions – even as natural gas production soars, thanks to safe fracking.
Posted October 7, 2014
New York Times columnist Joe Nocera has a new piece that calls for federal regulation of methane emissions from oil and natural gas production and distribution. Reducing methane emissions is a good idea – and industry has been doing it for years – which makes talk of new regulatory regimes seem odd.
Voluntarily, industry efforts have reduced methane emissions from fracked natural gas wells 73 percent since 2011, according to recent EPA data. That’s actually a fantastic number – one that parallels EPA’s greenhouse gases inventory showing a nearly 40 percent decrease in overall methane emissions from 2006 to 2012 – while natural gas production grew 37 percent.
Posted September 30, 2014
Some talk – some take to the streets – pushing for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The oil and natural gas industry is actually doing it. New EPA data supports:
- Methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems decreased 12 percent since 2011.
- The largest reductions come from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells – down 73 percent since 2011.
- Industry’s overall greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 equivalent) decreased 1 percent in 2013 compared to 2012.
Posted June 10, 2014
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman’s Sunday piece highlighted a conversation he had a few weeks ago with President Obama, during which the president talked about energy and climate change. A few things stand out:
The president signaled that climate policy should consider the real-world roles that are being played by various energy sources, saying:
“… we’re not going to suddenly turn off a switch and suddenly we’re no longer using fossil fuels, but we have to use this time wisely, so that you have a tapering off of fossil fuels replaced by clean energy sources that are not releasing carbon.”
Sounds reasonable, given the forecast of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) in its 2014 Annual Energy Outlook – that fossil fuels’ share of total U.S. energy use will be 80 percent in 2040, down only slightly from where it was in 2012 (82 percent). Oil and natural gas, which supplied 63 percent of the energy we used in 2012, are projected to supply 61 percent in 2040. Oil and natural gas are America’s energy today and tomorrow.