Detroit-based DTE Energy Co. said Thursday it’s on track to reduce methane emissions from its natural gas utility operations by more than 80% by 2040 as part of a broader effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions and address climate change.
The company, which serves 1.3 million natural gas customers and 2.2 million electricity customers in Michigan, said gas main replacement and proactive compressor station maintenance would primarily help curb methane emissions over the next 20 years. Since 2011, upgrades to the gas distribution system have resulted in a 16% decline in methane emissions, said COO Mark Stiers.
DTE said the reductions are coming by replacing steel and cast iron pipelines at an accelerated pace that exceeds federal guidelines and installing plastic tubing for main and service lines as well as epoxy-coated high-strength steel for transmission lines.
DTE also has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Earlier this year, the company filed with state regulators to more than double renewable energy capacity by the early 2020s. It plans to add 1,000-2,000 MW of renewables by 2022. That would complement the carbon-cutting strategy as it shutters all of its coal-fired power plants in the state by 2040.
Plans for a $1 billion natural gas-fired power plant are advancing in St. Clair County. The company broke ground on the Blue Water Energy Center, in August. The plant is slated to come online in 2022 and would be capable of powering 850,000 homes.
“DTE has demonstrated that methane emissions can be reduced while at the same time allowing natural gas to play an integral role in the company’s energy portfolio while transitioning to a reduced carbon emission infrastructure,” Stiers said, adding that a “balanced mix of energy sources, such as wind, solar and natural gas, is an important part of DTE’s strategy.”
The announcement comes as sustainability initiatives throughout the gas supply chain become more pervasive. Emissions from distribution systems nationwide have dropped significantly since the 1990s, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s annual greenhouse gas inventory report.
In the upstream sector, 13 of the biggest oil and natural gas producers in the world agreed in September to target by 2025 a 20% reduction in the average methane intensity of aggregated upstream operations to below 0.25%. Achieving that target would reduce collective emissions by 350,000 metric tons/year, compared to the baseline of 0.32% in 2017. Aimed at meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement, it was the first methane target outlined by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative.