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Monday, November 24, 2014

Simple steps can cheaply cut oil and gas methane emissions in half

Major US environmental groups have detailed how the federal government could cost-effectively cut methane emissions from oil and gas facilities by as much as 48 percent annually.

Waste Not: Common Sense Ways to Reduce Methane Pollution from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry is a summary of a report that will be released later this fall.  It's aimed at shaping new standards for methane pollution that the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to issue later this year.

The summary was prepared by the Clean Air Task Force, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club and has been endorsed by the Environmental Defense Fund, Earthworks and Earth Justice.

The report’s key findings:

The oil and gas industry is the nation’s largest industrial source of methane… and the oil and gas sector is the second largest industrial contributor to overall climate pollution. Moreover, there is compelling evidence that the industry is releasing a lot more methane than is currently accounted for in government inventories.
EPA could reduce the sector’s methane pollution in half in a just few years by issuing nationwide methane standards that require common sense, low-cost pollution controls for the sector’s top emitting sources.  
They include: 
  • Require oil and natural gas companies to control leaks from all equipment at wellpads, gas processing plants, compressor stations, and large aboveground distribution facilities by regularly carrying out leak detection inspections. 
  • Require proven methane control technologies and practices for all equipment—both new and existing—throughout the industry. 
  • Require well operators to capture natural gas that would otherwise be released and sell it or use it on-site, instead of releasing it or flaring it. 
The report says that its estimates of the methane abatement potential of these steps
are conservative estimates based on government inventories. They don’t account for the research indicating that actual emissions could be twice the inventory estimates, or higher. The problem and the upsides of controlling it—are likely much greater.
The standards we recommend in this report would also significantly reduce emissions of other air pollutants, specifically smog-forming volatile organic compounds and toxic pollutants like benzene that cause cancer and are associated with a host of other health problems.
The cost of the recommended standards would be low—less than one percent of the industry’s sales revenue.
The report should be required reading for Federal – and state – regulators.

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