Despite a dramatic rise in U.S. oil and natural gas production, methane emissions related to production have fallen. The shale revolution is generating record oil and natural gas in the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale, but methane emissions have dropped 40%.
Consume more, emit less
Until recently, coal-fired plants produced more than 50% of U.S. electricity. By 2017 that number fell to around 30%. Some even predict a fall to 15% within another twenty years with natural gas replacing coal as America’s electricity producer. Has the increased use of natural gas affected the environment? Yes, it has! Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States have fallen to their lowest levels since 1992. The huge Permian Basin is just one example; there has been a 57% reduction in methane emissions per unit of oil and gas produced despite its record production.
We all have the same goal, to see how low we can go
In May of last year, ExxonMobil announced a 20% reduction in its methane emissions by 2020. Shell and BP are two examples of companies using infrared cameras to scan for methane leaks; plus they are using advanced technology to repair small leaks before they become large ones. Methods are being researched for capturing methane that would normally be flared and turning it into methanol (i.e. wood alcohol) for creating fuel, solvents and antifreeze. Drones, able to cover multiple well sites in a short amount of time, are also being used to scan for possible leaks. Even satellite technology is being looked into for keeping an eye on emissions.
The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) published a list of five principles for reducing methane emissions across the gas value chain. Members of this coalition are BP, Shell, Total, ExxonMobil, and many others. The principals are:
● To continually reduce methane emissions
● Advance strong performance across gas value chains
● Improve accuracy of methane emissions data
● Advocate sound policies and regulations on methane emissions
● Increase transparency
With every pipeline and every technological advancement, we edge closer to the very real goal of near-zero methane emissions and a healthier environment.