The Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) on Tuesday made a bold commitment to work toward achieving net zero carbon emissions from their members’ domestic gas transmission and storage assets by 2050.

The work, which builds on other efforts by INGAA’s members to combat climate change, is not tied to President Biden’s ambitious climate change agenda, INGAA executives said Tuesday. Rather, the latest goal extends the call for members to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The executive team discussed the goals during a conference call Tuesday in which they shared INGAA’s 2021 Vision Forward. INGAA members, which operate nearly 200,000 miles of pipelines across the country, in 2018 committed to minimize methane emissions.

“Building on the progress the industry has already made, INGAA is committed to supporting its members in their efforts to further reduce GHG emissions and work together to address the issue of climate change,” Chairman David Slater said. Slater, who was elected chair earlier this month, also is COO of DTE Midstream.

The work won’t be done overnight, Slater said, but rather it will be a “three-decade journey” to reduce the impacts of pipeline infrastructure. 

‘Vibrant Conversation’

There is a “vibrant conversation” ongoing around the country, Slater said, regarding new technologies and ways to “decarbonize the energy delivery highway.” INGAA’s pipelines now move around one-third of the energy consumed across the country today.

“Our goal is to decarbonize the system, and there are lots of ways to do it,” said Slater. “We’re looking for shared learnings across our membership…”

The membership is a who’s who of the gas pipeline playmakers in North America. The leaders already have begun addressing ways to fix how their pipe systems impact the environment. 

INGAA member Williams, one of the largest gas pipeliners in the country, last year set a goal to reduce company-wide GHG emissions 56% from 2005 levels by 2030.

Kinder Morgan Inc., also an INGAA member, is doing the same. Last year CEO Steven Ken said the Houston giant would continue to look at the role of infrastructure in firming intermittent renewable resources. It also may look at hydrogen blending opportunities in gas pipelines. If the “incentives are adequate,” Kinder also may consider capturing man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) for transport and use in enhanced oil recovery.

Member commitments to reduce emissions from natural gas transmission and storage operations also are centered around providing “consistent and transparent data collection, measurement and reporting of GHG emissions from operations.” 

Innovation Nation

INGAA also is working with members to reduce the carbon intensity of gas infrastructure by adopting and investing in more innovative technologies. 

Investing in renewable natural gas, as well as carbon capture utilization and storage options and the growing interest in hydrogen all are potential technology avenues to explore and expand, Slater said. 

INGAA members are evaluating the potential application to use hydrogen blending in existing natural gas systems. The results to date are encouraging, Slater said. 

To support the growth of renewable energy and generation technology, INGAA also plans to ramp up services necessary for “flexible, fast-ramping generation” and energy storage to help minimize the risk of power disruptions, blackouts and brownouts during periods of peak demand.

 “As America’s energy leaders, we recognize and embrace the central role our industry plays in providing cleaner and more affordable energy,” said INGAA CEO Amy Andryszak. “For years, INGAA and its member companies have worked together to reduce methane emissions from our nation’s natural gas transmission and storage network, and this critical infrastructure has enabled the United States to reduce CO2 emissions over the last 15 years by transitioning to cleaner-burning natural gas. 

“The commitment we’re announcing…continues our industry’s leadership in addressing climate change and furthers our shared goal of working toward net zero emissions by 2050.”

The INGAA’s members also committed to ensuring there is an “active and constructive engagement” with lawmakers, regulators, investors and other stakeholders to develop energy policies “that utilize our national gas transmission infrastructure, benefit our environment, and reduce GHG emissions.”

Pipeline Challenges

INGAA’s Amy Conway acknowledged during the conference that it has become “more challenging” to build pipelines, a fact that has been “validated” by rulings at FERC. 

However, there is “still the need for natural gas pipelines” in the United States based on demand projections.

Operators are facing landowner and regulator struggles like never before to get gas infrastructure approved. For example, the Appalachian Basin gas conduit Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC, long embroiled in legal morass, has decided to pursue a new strategy to obtain the waterbody and wetlands crossing approvals that represent the conduit’s final permitting hurdle. 

With a Democratic administration now in charge, the INGAA executive team was asked whether more hurdles to expanding gas infrastructure may continue. President Biden campaigned on promises to put the United States on a path to a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

However, the INGAA members are more than ready to work with the Biden administration to advance more projects, Conway said.

“President Biden was very supportive of natural gas on the campaign trail,” she  said. “We’re going to take him at his word…and see pipelines continue to be built.”

The INGAA also is “open” to ensuring methane is regulated. The biggest concern for the industry is always the “lack of predictability” about regulation, Conway said. “Sound and effective” rules can “avoid the unintended consequences that impact reliability.” 

What members want is the “appropriate flexibility to meaningfully minimize their own emissions from operations.”

INGAA’s Sandra Snyder said members have “always wanted predictability and certainty,” and “that’s what better regulations help us provide.”