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Capturing Methane Possible at Little or No Cost

The oil and gas industry can capture leaking methane gas at little or no cost over the long-term, according to a new study by the Environmental Defense Fund and ICF International Inc. The study suggests that leaking methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas, can be reduced by improved technology and equipment. The industry has resisted such a move because of its costs, but the study finds that the $2.2 billion cost would be offset by the capturing and selling the natural gas that is currently leaking.

The potential, according to EDF, is huge. The report argues that emissions-control technologies that are already proven can reduce methane emissions by 40% below their projected 2018 levels. Doing so would cost less than one cent per thousand cubic feet. This could be achieved by “shifting to lower-emitting valves, or pneumatics, that control routine operations, and improving leak detection and repair to reduce unintended methane leaks from equipment, also known as ‘fugitives,’” according to a press release by EDF. The industry could even save a combined $164 million per year.

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One interesting finding is that despite heady projections for growth in oil and gas production in the coming years, 90% of methane emissions in 2018 will come from already existing sources. And from the 100 categories of emissions sources, 80% of the leaking methane comes from just 22. In other words, the industry can target the few large sources of methane to get the bulk of reductions.

Leaking methane emissions are becoming a more prominent target for environmental groups seeking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The federal government has delayed national standards until 2015, with the rules only to affect new wells. But states are looking to pass their own measures to reduce methane leakage. Colorado recently became the first state to do so. Colorado’s new regulations will require drillers to install equipment that reduces methane emissions by 95%.

By Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com



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