U.S. Sets New Methane Emissions Goal


By MarEx 2015-01-18 21:18:43

The U.S. has set a new goal to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40-45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025.

U.S. oil production is at the highest level in nearly 30 years, and the U.S. is also now the largest natural gas producer in the world. 

Continuing to rely on these domestic energy resources is a critical element of the nation’s energy strategy. However, methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas, with 25 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.

Methane emissions accounted for nearly 10 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2012, of which nearly 30 percent came from the production transmission and distribution of oil and natural gas. Emissions from the oil and gas sector are down 16 percent since 1990 and current data show significant reductions from certain parts of the sector, notably well completions. 

Nevertheless, emissions from the oil and gas sector are projected to rise more than 25 percent by 2025 without additional steps to lower them. For these reasons, a strategy for cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is an important component of efforts to address climate change, said the U.S. EPA in a statement last week.

Achieving the Administration’s goal would save up to 180 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2025, enough to heat more than 2 million homes for a year and continue to support businesses that manufacture and sell cost-effective technologies to identify, quantify, and reduce methane emissions.

The new initiative includes: 
Propose and Set Commonsense Standards for Methane Emissions 
New Guidelines to Reduce Volatile Organic Compounds
Consider Enhancing Leak Detection and Emissions Reporting
Reduce Methane Emissions while Improving Pipeline Safety
Drive Technology to Reduce Natural Gas Losses and Improve Emissions Quantification.

In April 2011, U.S. researchers from Cornell University published the first peer-reviewed analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas, concluding that the climate impact of shale gas may be worse than that of other fossil fuels such as coal and oil because of methane emissions. 

The study sparked further research, and the researchers published a review of other studies last year that supports the earlier findings. Using these new, best available data and a 20-year time period for comparing the warming potential of methane to carbon dioxide, the conclusion stands that both shale gas and conventional natural gas have a larger greenhouse gas footprint than coal or oil for any possible use of natural gas and particularly for the primary uses of residential and commercial heating. The 20-year time period is appropriate because of the urgent need to reduce methane emissions over the coming 15–35 years, say the researchers, led by Dr Robert W. Howarth.

The paper, published in Energy Science and Engineering, is available here.