ICYMI: Appalachian Basin’s methane emissions fall despite increase in gas production (Tribune-Review)

As Pennsylvania natural gas production soars, methane emissions have plummeted, according to recent federal data reported in the Tribune-Review. EPA’s inventory released last month shows greenhouse gas emissions “were at their lowest level in 25 years and methane emissions in particular are down 18.8% since 1990,” the newspaper reports.

While methane emissions have fallen, the intensity – or emissions per unit of production – has also declined in top U.S. oil and natural gas basins. According to an Energy InDepth analysis of federal data, oil and natural gas production increased 379 percent from 2011-2017 in the Appalachian Basin. At the same time, methane emission intensity plummeted 82 percent.

As MSC’s Jim Welty wrote in testimony to the House Democratic Policy committee, “since methane is the very product that our members market and sell, operators have every incentive to minimize losses” due to leaks.

Pennsylvania’s natural gas producers continue to deploy new technologies and best practices to achieve this important goal, including:

  • Eliminating venting and flaring by directing the gas that flows back during well competition activities directly into pipelines;
  • Using vapor recovery systems, collecting vapors from dehydrators, water trucks and tanks;
  • Using air instead of gas for pumps and pneumatic controllers;
  • Employing Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) equipment on a recurring basis to identify and eliminate leaks.

Here’s additional key excerpts from MSC’s written testimony:

“Our member companies are proud of the role that natural gas has played in developing and delivering the fuel that is cleaning our air and helping Pennsylvania be a world leader through historic carbon emission reductions.

“Over the past several decades, air quality in the United States, and in Pennsylvania in particular, has increased exponentially. Thanks to innovations in technology, tightening environmental performance standards and increased use of natural gas: Volatile Organic Compounds emissions, affecting respiratory health, are down 51% between 1995 and 2015; sulfur dioxide emissions, which contributes to acid rain, are down 82% between 1990 and 2015; and nitrogen oxide emissions, affecting respiratory health, are down 72% between 1990 and 2015.

“Much of the public discussion and rhetoric surrounding climate change has revolved around whether individual parties believe in climate change, and the extent to which human activity has contributed to it. What is clearly lost in any conversation is the positive impact that natural gas production has had on air quality. Unbiased data clearly demonstrates the overall benefit that the use of natural gas has had on the environment, as emphasized by Secretary McDonnell who recently testified that Pennsylvania already had met the Clean Power Plan goals “because of the shift toward cleaner natural gas.’ ”


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