A diverse group of oil and gas, landowners, academia and environmental representatives is helping New Mexico regulators as they move toward a formal rulemaking in 2020 to reduce methane emissions.
The Methane Advisory Panel (MAP), convened by the New Mexico Environmental Department (NMED) and the state’s Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Division, issued a 300-page draft technical report that offers potential solutions to cut methane emissions from oil and gas operations.
“The effort put into this report by MAP members is unparalleled in its thoroughness,” said NMED Secretary James Kenney. “This is exactly the baseline information we need to effectively tackle methane emissions in our state.”
Public comments on the MAP’s resource project, which are being accepted through Feb. 20, would be used as part of a rulemaking scheduled to move forward in the new year.
The 27-member MAP is composed of landowners and representatives of the energy industry, environmental groups and academia. It was tasked over four months to consider a diversity of perspectives and potential ways to cut harmful emissions.
Some of New Mexico’s largest producers were represented, including ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy Inc., Chevron Corp., Devon Energy Corp., EOG Resources Inc., Enduring Resources LLC, Hilcorp Energy, Marathon Oil Corp., Mewbourne Oil Co. and Occidental Petroleum Corp.
The group was not asked to provide recommendations or to reach consensus, but rather provide a resource that identified “multiple methane reduction strategies” for state regulators to investigate.
“Through the lens of their varied individual experiences, the MAP members considered new and innovative technologies, as well as existing and proposed solutions found in other states,” according to the report.
Various strategies outlined include the need to develop more infrastructure to reduce natural gas venting and flaring, as well as increased leak detection and monitoring
The report follows an analysis issued earlier in December by New Mexico and Texas industry groups that reported a decline in methane emissions across each state’s portion of the Permian Basin over the past seven years, even as production tripled.
The analysis, “Flaring Progress in the Permian: the Untold Story,” was overseen by Texans for Natural Gas, the Permian Basin Petroleum Association (PBPA) and the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association (NMOGA). They used flaring data from the World Bank in part to make their case.
According to the trade groups, flaring and emissions intensity, which is the amount of methane burned off or emitted/boe, has fallen 64% in the Permian Basin over the past seven years. As a country by itself, the Permian would rank 45th in the world in flaring intensity, behind major oil-producing countries that include Iran, Russia and Venezuela, according to the World Bank.
The reduction in flaring has come even with a 210% increase in oil production since 2011 in the Permian, now considered the fourth largest oil producing region in the world.
“This new analysis gives a more accurate view of methane and flaring, accounting for the Permian’s massive energy potential and its wide-reaching benefits,” said Texans for Natural Gas spokesperson Elizabeth Caldwell. “We have replaced imported barrels with U.S. produced barrels, which have a much better environmental profile than what is produced overseas. American energy security is good for the economy and our environment.”
NMOGA executive director Ryan Flynn touted Permian producers’ leadership in cutting methane emissions while increasing their output.
“The Permian Basin is one of the top oil and natural gas fields in the entire world, and producers across the basin are demonstrating world-class leadership by reducing emissions alongside growing production,” Flynn said. “As energy markets across the globe look to America for their energy needs, we are creating the solutions of the future to deliver cleaner, more reliable energy to people and communities in every corner of the planet.”
PBPA President Ben Shepperd said the analysis showed that the basin’s producers “are proving every day that energy production and environmental stewardship are not mutually exclusive, and we are committed to sustainable energy policies. Our members’ efforts to reduce the environmental impact of our operations continues through innovation and investment, and we are proud of the bright future for the Permian Basin.”
Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) in early December reported that the volume of U.S. natural gas vented and flared reached a record high average of 1.28 Bcf/d in 2018, with Texas and North Dakota accounting for 82% of the total. The percentage of domestic gas vented and flared increased last year to 1.25% of gross withdrawals, compared with 0.84% in 2017.
Texas accounted for 51% of the vented/flared gas, while North Dakota accounted for 31%, according to EIA.