A Sustainability Imperative
Today’s oil and gas industry is a large source of global methane emissions. As energy demand rises in China, India and other nations, future emissions are projected to grow. How the industry responds to this challenge will determine natural gas’ role in an increasingly competitive world energy mix.
“The role that natural gas can play in the future of global energy is inextricably linked to its ability to help address environmental problems,” says the International Energy Agency. IEA estimates methane emissions can be feasibly cut by 75 percent—a 50 percent cut can be achieved at no net cost because solutions are simple to deploy.
A Climate Problem
that’s also a Solution
Studies across the U.S. oil and gas industry found methane emissions are a system-wide challenge—from well pads, compression stations and processing plants to the gas lines under local city streets. Emissions are widespread and often much higher than what official inventories report, and other global research shows a similar pattern. It’s not just a natural gas problem. About half the industry’s methane emissions come from the oil sector.
Unaccounted emissions are typically associated with unpredictable sources, but preventive measures and frequent inspections can significantly mitigate these leaks at both oil and gas sites, even as new scientific methods—including satellites that will measure methane from space—enhance our understanding of the global methane picture.
Methane Tech Joins the Market
Cutting emissions is often as simple as tightening valves and monitoring regularly for leaks in the first place. That’s why many oil and gas companies are already starting to tackle the problem.
Science shows that the biggest emissions tend to come in random, unpredictable ways, which means better tech and monitoring are among the best reduction strategies. Several innovative monitoring technologies are available now, and more are coming to market every year. For example, solar-powered lasers can flag leaks and provide real-time data analytics to wellsite managers on mobile devices. Sensor-enabled drones can also scan facilities for emissions.