The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Cont’d: The Falling Methane Emissions Story

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted April 16, 2015

For months we’ve argued that new federal regulation targeting methane emissions from energy development is unnecessary and could undermine the success industry initiatives already are achieving. Howard Feldman, API’s senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs, from earlier this year:

“Methane is the product we bring to market. We sell methane – that is natural gas. That’s what we want to sell. … We don’t need regulation to tell us to do that because we are incentivized to do that. It’s not a byproduct or something. It is the product we’re selling. … We’re developing these technologies because we want to more and more capture natural gas.”

This is exactly what’s happening. New data from EPA includes two big findings on methane emissions:

  • Net methane emissions from natural gas production have fallen 38 percent since 2005, according to EPA’s new inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and sinks.
  • Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas wells are down nearly 79 percent since 2005.


Charting both trend lines – first, emissions from natural gas production:

 overall

And second, emissions from fracked natural gas wells – data that EPA posted separate from its main inventory report:

HF

The logical takeaway from all of the above is pretty simple: Emissions of methane are plunging dramatically. The chief reason also is simple. As Feldman stated, industry has good reason to capture as much methane as possible during production, because it’s a valuable commodity.

Here’s more. The API-produced chart below (again using data from EPA’s inventory), shows something equally remarkable: Emissions are falling simultaneous to soaring natural gas production. We’re producing more and more natural gas, thanks to safe hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, yet methane emissions have significantly dropped.

production

Again, this is because industry is working to bring them down. Feldman:

“The latest inventory shows that U.S. producers continue to make dramatic improvements … These voluntary efforts will continue, as operators work to capture more gas and deliver it to consumers. Another layer of burdensome regulations will only interfere with that progress.”

The set of facts above should guide policymakers. Increased domestic production of natural gas is integral to U.S. economic growth and also to reducing emissions of carbon dioxide to near 20-year lows. Layering on additional methane regulation, as the White House has indicated it plans to do, would be a case of regulating for regulation’s sake. 

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. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. 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 live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.