The most recent EPA data show the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has reduced methane emissions 14 percent since 1990 — a remarkable achievement considering natural gas and oil production increased 50 and 21 percent, respectively, during that time.
But even more notable is the fact that these reductions have largely come as a result of voluntarily measures, with new data announced Monday by ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy being the latest example that such measures are not only effective, but improving.
XTO announced during the first day of the World Gas Conference in Washington D.C. that it has reduced methane emissions from its operations nine percent since 2016. Close to four percent of those reductions can be traced directly to a voluntary methane management program implemented in 2017 that XTO noted Monday has spearheaded reductions by beginning to phase out two-thirds of high-bleed pneumatic devices and implementing various facility design improvements.
“Over the past nine months, we’ve gained significant insight from the data collected through our methane management program,” XTO President Sara Ortwein said. “We are building on what we have learned to make continued progress in reducing emissions and identifying areas for further improvement.”
XTO’s reductions are part of ExxonMobil’s two percent overall methane emission reductions its cumulative operations since 2016. But that company – and the industry in general – isn’t resting on its laurels. As a continuation of its commitment to reduce methane emissions 15 percent by 2020, ExxonMobil also announced along with Chevron on Monday the creation of a methane emissions consortium to be dubbed the Callaboratory for Advancing Methane Science (CAMS). CAMS will conduct research and pursue downstream methane emission reductions via refining and the petrochemical process, according to the Houston Chronicle. CAMS will also include Cheniere Energy, Pioneer Natural Resources and Equinor and will be managed by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI).
These announcements come on the heels of a 26-company “Environmental Partnership” initiative launched this year that consists of programs designed to monitor and fix leaks, replace and upgrade pneumatic controllers, and minimize emissions associated with separating liquids that can build up and restrict natural gas flow as a well ages.
These efforts show that the U.S. oil and natural gas industry has every intention on continuing the amazing progress achieved on the voluntary methane emissions reduction front in recent years.
According to EPA data, nearly 14 million metric tons of the 32.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent of methane emission reductions achieved since 1990 have occurred between 2011 and 2016. EPA data also show methane emissions have declined in eight major U.S. oil and gas basins during that timespan, including the San Juan Basin (down 47 percent), Appalachian Basin (down 24 percent), Permian Basin (down 6.3 percent), Williston Basin (down 8.3 percent) and Anadarko Basin (down 34 percent).
The American Gas Association also recently noted that the amount of methane emissions per unit of natural gas produced has declined 46 percent since 1990. And GTI earlier this year issued a report that U.S. oil and gas methane emissions account for just 1.4 percent of overall global methane emissions and 0.2 percent of global radiative forcing.
The prevailing scientific data really couldn’t be clearer: Not only is the United States leading the world in oil and gas production and carbon dioxide reductions — all thanks to fracking — it is also setting the tone with regard to methane reductions from oil and gas development.
Despite recent alarmist headlines, U.S. oil and natural gas system methane emissions are still well below the leakage rate in which natural gas would lose its climate benefits over other traditional fuels, and the industry is striving to further reduce those emissions.
This continued voluntary progress on the methane mitigation front is proof positive that costly “one-size-fits-all” federal rules that environmental groups insist are needed are more about curbing domestic oil and natural gas production rather than mitigating climate change.