Voluntary efforts to reduce oil and natural gas methane emissions are seeing significant results, according to recently released federal data.

Since its inception in 2016, more than 60 companies from all segments of the oil and natural gas industry have voluntarily participated in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program. These initiatives resulted in methane emissions reductions equivalent to nearly 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2017, according to the agency.

The program provides partner companies a platform to make a commitment to cut methane emissions, track and report their actions, and be recognized by the agency for their reductions. As EPA acting administrator for Air and Radiation Anne Idsal explained:

“We greatly appreciate the actions these companies are taking to lead the way in improving efficiency, reducing methane emissions, and improving air quality.” These companies are showing that pollution prevention and profitability can go hand-in-hand—because less methane in the air means more natural gas product in the pipeline to deliver to customers.”

To Idsal’s point, EPA reported that in 2017, these companies:

  • Kept nearly $6 million worth of natural gas in the pipeline.
  • Replaced more than 1,400 miles of cast iron pipelines and more than 2,000 miles of unprotected steel pipelines.
  • Reduced methane emissions from pipeline “blowdowns” by nearly 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent.

These achievements demonstrate the industry’s commitment to reduce emissions, while continuing to increase oil and natural gas production. In the United States, greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since 1992 and between 2011 and 2017 methane emissions fell 24 percent while oil production rose 65 percent and natural gas rose production 19 percent.

Partner companies’ increased efforts, such as conducting annual leak detection and repair (LDAR) inspections and deploying technological innovations, are having real results in the most prolific U.S. shale basins.

A recent EID analysis found that annual Permian Basin methane emissions fell from 4.8 million metric tons (MMT) to 4.6 MMT from 2011 to 2017. Combined oil and natural gas production jumped from 638.9 million barrels of oil equivalent (Boe) to 1.4 billion Boe during the same time period, resulting in a 57 percent reduction in methane emissions per unit of oil and gas produced.

In the Appalachian Basin combined oil and natural gas annual production grew by 1.2 billion Boe from 2011 to 2017. Simultaneously, methane emissions from production in the basin fell from 5.3 MMT to 4.7 MMT. The result was an emissions intensity reduction of 82 percent.

Methane emissions reductions are an important focus of the U.S. oil and natural gas industry, which continues to show it is committed to doing its part in reducing its overall environmental footprint.