Let’s make three quick points following release of a new methane emissions report from the Environmental Defense Fund:
Natural Gas’ Benefits Confirmed
The report’s findings reflect the fact methane emissions were low in 2015. According to EPA, methane emissions from natural gas production are down 14 percent since 1990, while natural gas output increased more than 50 percent over the same period.
At the same time, increased use of natural gas is the chief reason U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are at 25-year lows, and have provided Americans with the cleanest air years as well as a number of economic benefits.
Erik Milito, API upstream group director:
“This paper is consistent with the fact that methane emissions were low in 2015 and reaffirms the benefits of increased use of natural gas as a fuel source, which is driving U.S. carbon dioxide emissions downward. The industry has achieved continued emissions reductions thanks in large part to technology advancements and this innovation has been fundamentally important to our shared goal to reduce emissions.”
Technology, Knowledge and Collaboration Drive Continued Progress
With the December launch of The Environmental Partnership, industry is committed to continuing progress on reducing emissions. The Partnership, which has grown to include 40 member companies, is focused on technologies, leak detection and other processes to cut methane emissions at key points in natural gas production.
Most significantly, the Partnership’s members are working together – learning, sharing knowledge and collaborating to continue progress on emissions. Milito:
“The natural gas and oil industry is committed to continuous improvement in operations, including safety, public health and reducing emissions from exploration and production sites. The Environmental Partnership is an example of our forward-looking commitment to delivering on a continuous cycle of learning, collaborating, and taking action. We look forward to continuing our engagement with both private and governmental organizations, to identify ways to improve our operations and provide our operational and technical expertise to ensure that current and future data collection and analysis are robust and accurate.”
Needed: Sound Methodologies and Accurate Data
API experts are reviewing EDF’s report – as they have previous reports commissioned by the group and other organizations. Research is critically important to understanding where and how improvements can be made.
That said, Milito noted that previous studies have “demonstrated the limitations of relying on airborne measurements alone to draw firm conclusions” on the natural gas and oil industry’s methane emissions. These limitations include:
- The ability to extrapolate short-term measurements to annual loss rates
- The ability to properly assign measured methane concentrations to fossil and biogenic sources of methane
- The accuracy of the reverse flux calculation to derive emission rates from ambient measurements
- The ability to determine the local background methane concentrations for air mass entering a basin or are