Dominion Energy Inc. plans to cut methane emissions in half from its natural gas infrastructure, the Richmond, VA-based utility announced Tuesday.
The planned emissions cuts -- a 50% reduction by 2030 based on 2010 levels -- would prevent 430,000 metric tons (mt) of methane from entering the atmosphere, equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road or planting close to 180 million trees, according to the company. The initiative is designed to build on the 180,000 mt of methane emissions reductions Dominion achieved over the last decade.
“We recognize we need to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to further combat climate change,” said Dominion’s Diane Leopold, CEO of the Gas Infrastructure Group. “We’ve made significant progress, but we’re determined to go much further. With this initiative, we are transforming the way we do business to build a more sustainable future for the planet, our customers and our industry.”
The planned reductions would come from reducing or eliminating gas venting during planned maintenance/inspections, replacing older equipment and expanding leak detection/repair programs.
Management said Dominion’s proposal would see it “take a leading role in the industry by reducing methane emissions across its entire system -- from production and storage to transmission and distribution.”
Venting to remove gas from the system during maintenance and inspections is the largest source of methane emissions from Dominion’s facilities, according to the company. Instead of venting, Dominion plans to deploy new technology to capture methane before maintenance events and recycle it elsewhere on the system.
“Thanks to advances in technology and innovations in our operating procedures, we can capture methane on a much larger scale than we could have ten years ago,” Chief Innovation Officer Mark Webb said. “We've tested and proven these technologies in some parts of our infrastructure, and now we're dramatically expanding them across the entire system.”
Other improvements planned to target the other “minor sources” of emissions include installing low-emission equipment, such as solar-powered pumps at gas-producing wells, and the expanded use of infrared technology to detect leaks.
The nonpartisan Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) commended Dominion’s proposed methane reduction measures.
“We’re seeing more and more American companies making voluntary commitments and achieving goals to reduce their own emissions,” C2ES President Bob Perciasepe said. “C2ES works with companies to help them take early action on climate strategies for a sustained competitive advantage as they prepare for the low-carbon economy. Methane accounts for 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and about 16% globally, but, like other short-lived pollutants, the global warming impact of methane is much greater than carbon dioxide on a pound-for-pound basis.
“Dominion Energy’s announcement to cut methane leakage and venting is an impactful, cost-effective solution to address climate change. Their targeted strategy to cut their methane emissions in half through better venting practices, installation of new equipment, and enhanced leak detection with advanced infrared flare cameras is an example of clear, positive steps that can be taken by companies with natural gas assets to reduce their emissions footprint.”
Dominion, along with several oil and gas companies, is a member of the C2ES Business Environmental Leadership Council.
With the announcement Dominion becomes the latest industry player to take a proactive approach in addressing methane emissions. Late last year, ExxonMobil Corp. reportedly broke ranks with some oil and gas operators over the Trump administration's plans to amend Obama-era rules on methane, arguing that the regulations are "reasonable" in their current form.
Before that, an industry-led consortium, initially led by Cheniere Energy Inc., Chevron Corp., Equinor ASA, ExxonMobil and Pioneer Natural Resources Co., revealed plans to advance methane science to better combat global emissions from the natural gas value chain from production to end-use.
These actions come as climate change has become a major political talking point, including a Democrat-led Green New Deal initiative that has caught the attention of the oil and gas industry. Climate-related concerns have also increasingly factored into regulatory proceedings at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for operators seeking approval for natural gas infrastructure projects.