U.S. methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry are decreasing relative to the nation's total production, according to the American Petroleum Institute (API), which is part of a collaborative industry effort aimed at tackling the problem.

Citing "tremendous progress and activity" in its first full year in 2018, API CEO Mike Sommers said the 65-company Environmental Partnership has applied technological innovation, academic, engineering and manufacturing/industrial collaboration as its focus to help achieve a 40% reduction in methane emissions in the Permian Basin where production grew by 100% between 2011 and 2017.

"Through innovative and action-oriented partnerships like this one, we will continue to take action to protect our environment and safely produce and deliver the energy consumers demand," Sommers said.

Launched in December 2017, API joined 26 initial oil and gas producers to form a partnership aimed at accelerating improvements to environmental performance in their U.S. onshore operations, focusing initially on reducing methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions.

Earlier this year, the members of the partnership reported their individual results from launching three specific programs: leak detection and repair; replacement of outdated, leaky pneumatic controllers; and improving manual liquids unloading.

The partnership said more than 156,000 leak surveys were completed last year at more than 78,000 production sites, finding that less than 1% (0.16%) of the surveyed equipment required repairs. API noted that is 10 times lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's estimated 1.4% leak rate, and 99% of the repairs were done within 60 days.

In addition, 31,000 high-bleed pneumatic controllers were replaced, retrofitted or removed in 2018, and 38 of the participating companies no longer use any of these controllers with the advent of innovative technology and newer infrastructure.

Partnership Director Matthew Todd called the collaborative effort a model that can be applied to meet other challenges facing the industry in the future. "The Environmental Partnership has more than doubled in participant size, and this growth is a testament to industry's commitment to its mission," he said.