The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Reducing Methane Emissions, Advancing U.S. Energy

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted July 11, 2017

Some points to underscore while EPA works on extending compliance deadlines to allow the agency to revisit emissions regulations that were finalized in 2016:

  • Methane emissions from the natural gas industry fell 16.3 percent between 1990 and 2015, during which natural gas production increased 50 percent – primarily due to industry leadership and voluntary technological innovation.
  • Methane emissions from hydraulically-fractured natural gas wells have fallen nearly 79 percent since 2005, according to EPA.
  • Methane emissions likely will continue to fall – industry has market incentives to continue lowering them because methane is the main component of natural gas.

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For the public, the big picture is one of significant emissions and climate progress – even more so when you consider that because of increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas U.S. carbon emissions from power generation are near 30-year lows.

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We expect that, after all the data and emissions trends are considered, EPA will develop a science-based, cost-effective path to target emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), in which methane emissions reductions also are achieved. Industry supports environmental protection and, indeed, is demonstrating that support by taking actions to reduce methane emissions.

Howard Feldman, API’s senior director for regulatory and scientific affairs, testified at an EPA public hearing on extending compliance deadlines for its New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) this week:

“We’re doing our part and these trends are indicative of what our industry, when given the freedom to innovate, can achieve to improve the environment while protecting our nation’s energy security. And progress will continue.”

The leadership and innovation involves leak detection and repair methods to measure and respond to VOCs that may come from equipment such as valves, pumps and connections. Again, industry has every reason to capture as many of these emissions as possible, because it’s in the business of selling natural gas. Feldman:

“API has maintained a collaborative working relationship with [EPA] staff to provide operational and emissions data to inform the developments of these important rules. During this time, our objective has remained the identification of cost-effective emission control requirements that reduce VOC emissions for new sources and, as a co-benefit, also reduce methane. This approach, when combined with the leadership the industry has demonstrated to voluntarily reduce emissions from existing sources, has already proven effective. Our industry has led the way in its pursuit of improved operations and loss minimization, and the industry is incentivized to safely recover and capture methane as it is the primary component of natural gas.”

The United States is the world’s leading producer of natural gas and oil and the world’s leading refiner. Industry recognizes the high importance of safe and responsible energy development, which includes continuous progress in reducing methane emissions. The U.S. energy renaissance has made our country more energy secure, while boosting the economy and benefiting individual consumers. The average U.S. household saw its disposable income rise $1,337 in 2015 because of lower utility bills and other energy-related cost savings, thanks to natural gas produced from shale with hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. A new ICF report finds that total end-use cost savings of $100 billion could reach by 2040, or $655 per household, from the increased use of natural gas throughout the economy.

We need policies and regulations that support continued safe and responsible natural gas and oil production – not hindering, duplicative regulations that could increase the cost of energy for Americans. Feldman:

“The technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling have elevated the United States to global prominence as an energy superpower. Because of the advanced application of these technologies, the United States is now the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas while, at the same time, emissions from the industry continue to decline. ... We must ensure that government policies, including those of the EPA, do not impede out continued ability to harness these tremendous benefits for the country.”

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.