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Permian E&Ps Urged to Stop ‘Wasting’ Natural Gas, Reduce Methane Emissions

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is looking to find more industry support to curb methane emissions, with Permian Basin operators considered prime candidates to join the effort, senior director Ben Ratner told NGI’s Shale Daily.

"There is a Permian problem in that there is a tremendous amount of natural gas waste and pollution through flaring and through emissions from the gas production," Ratner said.

EDF is making a push to draw attention to onshore methane emissions ahead of the 27th annual World Gas Conference (WGC), which begins Monday in Washington, DC.

Permian operators should adopt methane reduction plans, because the “build-out of natural gas infrastructure just hasn't kept up with overall production,” Ratner said Tuesday.

EDF last fall identified some of the best and worst performers for gas flaring in the Permian. However, there is no consensus about how to address the issue, and there was blowback about the EDF report by exploration and production (E&P) companies that work in southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. 

EDF estimated that in 2015, West Texas E&Ps collectively flared 45.5 Bcf, enough gas to serve all the household needs in the counties that make up the play in the state. It concluded that New Mexico’s overall output from intentional emissions, equipment leaks, fugitive emissions and gas flaring combustion combined totaled 570,000 tons/year. In terms of natural gas value, New Mexico was estimated to lose $182-244 million of fuel value, with the state losing up to $27.6 million annually in lost taxes and royalties.

Ratner defended the Permian study.  “Our motto at EDF is: ‘Finding the ways that work,’ and we’re looking to work with industry and government to get things done,” he said.

Ratner is talking up collaboration these days, and he pointed to Colorado, where oil and gas development is thriving even with stiff regulations to protect the environment.

"Colorado is a great example, both in the rules developed and the way they were developed," he said. He emphasized that environmentalists, industry leaders and regulators have collaborated to develop rules that work for industry and for the environment.

“It usually doesn’t work that way, but it happened that way in Colorado to revise and improve the rules. They’re achieving emission reductions in Colorado without a lot of negative impacts on industry.”

As at the five-day WGC, EDF plans to promote technology advances to reduce methane leaks.  A technical innovation center is one of seven program areas at WGC, which will host talks on innovations in gas storage, work force technical advances, digital pipeline integrity, among about 40 topic areas.

EDF has several nationwide methane emissions reductions initatives underway with E&Ps. It also is working with operators that represent about 20% of worldwide production through the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative and with governments and industry in the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, a coalition of global producers committed to better reporting to reduce methane emissions.

And in April EDF said it is laying plans to launch a satellite to track and measure methane emissions, initially from the oil and natural gas sector. The nonprofit also is partnering to advance drone mobile sensors.

"There is substantial interest in these drone sensors and a lot of money going into it," Ratner said. "It's the natural next step to explore mounting sensitive methane sensors on drones...

"We want to figure out what this means in terms of increased speed and efficiency of coverage monitoring pipelines and other oil and gas equipment for moving product to market."

The WGC, this year titled “Fueling the Future,” is the "largest global gas conference," drawing 340 sponsoring exhibitors and more than 12,000 attendees from 100 countries around the world. The organizer of the triennial event, coming to the United States for the first time in 30 years, is the International Gas Union (IGU). It runs from June 25-29.

The American Gas Association, an IGU member, is the host association for this year’s conference. Host partners are Chevron Corp. and ExxonMobil Corp. while principal sponsors are Cheniere Energy Inc. and Tellurian Inc.

(NGI is a World Gas Conference exhibitor and will be hosting Booth 1208, featuring its newsletters, data and maps. Be sure to check out our latest service, Mexico Gas Price Index, as well as an on-site TV screen streaming live World Cup soccer action. Enter to win a autographed and framed Lionel Messi jersey.)

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