December 2, 2021
Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, Environmental Protection Agency
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Office of Air and Radiation, Environmental Protection Agency
United States Representative, West Virginia
Senior Policy Advisor, API
Methane, a primary component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas, is estimated to be more than 25 times as potent as CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere. Because of its benefits for the environment, policymakers are beginning to focus more attention on reducing methane emissions.
In a recent EnergyInnovates panel, industry experts discussed the potential environmental impact of methane reduction, the effect of the natural gas tax on Americans, and how to prevent leaks in the natural gas supply chain.
The EPA Has New Standards and Guidelines for Methane Reduction
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a new proposal to reduce methane and other harmful emissions from the oil and natural gas industry.
“The proposal … is a top priority for the administration,” said Tomás Carbonell, deputy assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at EPA. “It's a crucial step in fighting climate change and protecting public health, especially in communicating in communities that are located near oil and gas facilities, which are all too often communities that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and suffer disproportionately from poor air quality.”
Additionally, Carbonell continued, the proposal “reflects proven and cost-effective solutions that, in many cases, leading companies have pioneered and already deployed in the field.”
“It also incorporates innovative technologies and creates room for the deployment of those technologies, which are enabling us to detect and resolve methane emissions more quickly and cheaply than has ever been possible before,” he said.
The Impact of the Natural Gas Tax and Record-High Gas Prices
Representative David McKinley of West Virginia noted that, as we see the early stages of winter, gas prices are at a seven-year high across the country. As a result, Americans can expect to spend 30% more on energy this winter, in addition to the imposed natural gas tax, which is at least another 30% more cost to consumers.
“The combination of those two is crippling to families right now,” said Rep. McKinley. “It's just going to be harder for families to make ends meet.”
Regarding methane, Rep. McKinley believes there should be some form of regulation or control over methane emissions. However, “it should be done in a bipartisan fashion, and that’s not what’s happening right now,” he said.
There Are Many Opportunities to Prevent Leaks in the Natural Gas Supply Chain
Brian Miller, VP of growth and policy at Project Canary, stated that technology, data, and transparency are three key critical factors to addressing methane emissions within the energy sector.
“It's geologic natural gas that has both lower [green house gas] emissions and certified ESG impacts,” said Miller. “The consensus is growing that methane has a much more potent impact on the climate than does CO2, and it's a place where we can actually achieve some real opportunities in the short term.”
“There are a number of preventable leaks that occur in the natural gas supply chain, and … by both producing and buying certified gas or differentiated gas, we can reduce carbon footprints today,” Miller added.
Miller noted that leaks can also be prevented through production gathering, processing, and transmission storage and that his company is working with others across the space to take advantage of such opportunities.
Additionally, according to Mary Streett, SVP for U.S. Communications and External Affair at BP, the energy company is using multiple different technologies in its approach to leak prevention.
“We’re going to need a multi-spatial, multi-temporal approach that's going to allow us to quickly and cost-effectively find the emissions,” she said. “It means a layering of technology.”
Examples include drones, satellites, fixed devices for continuous monitoring, and more. For instance, an infrared camera might see a very small emission from a leaking valve on the ground, a drone can help you scan the whole area, and a satellite can assist with bigger leak detection — each serving its own purpose.
“I can’t say that one technology is better than the other,” Streett said. “We think the answer is going to be a layered approach.”
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