Industry momentum builds for nationwide methane regulation

Oil and gas companies in the United States are the latest to add their voices to the broad set of stakeholders supporting federal regulation of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector. These companies have a major responsibility to reduce methane emissions, a key step in the energy transition. This week in Houston, at CERAWeek, Shell, ExxonMobil and BP took important steps to support nationwide direct methane regulation, with Shell urging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to not deregulate methane emissions and to even tighten standards.

There is more opportunity than ever before to regulate and reduce emissions in ways that work for industry and the environment. As ExxonMobil wrote, federal methane regulation “helps build stakeholder confidence, and provides long-term certainty for industry planning and investment while achieving climate related goals.”

The federal regulation of methane emissions is an essential effort that builds on proven state regulatory models and positive efforts that dozens of companies are already practicing as part of sound business operations.

It’s time for more companies to speak up, because without nationwide methane regulation, industry is only as strong as its weakest link.

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EDF and ExxonMobil discuss technology and regulation to reduce methane emissions

Since 2017, ExxonMobil has expanded its U.S. methane leak detection program, committed to its first global methane target, supported methane monitoring technology innovation and encouraged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate methane emissions at new and existing sources. Although Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and ExxonMobil are not always aligned on certain important issues, the organizations are working together to understand and reduce methane emissions. Ben Ratner, senior director with EDF+Business, sat down with Matt Kolesar, regulatory manager at ExxonMobil’s XTO Energy affiliate, to discuss the company’s perspective on why methane is such a key issue for the industry and how technology and regulation can accelerate industry’s progress.

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ExxonMobil and Shell lead an industry divide on Trump climate rollback

This post was co-authored by Rosalie Winn, attorney for Environmental Defense Fund.

Methane emissions from the American oil and gas industry waste valuable resources, accelerate climate change and severely cloud the credibility of natural gas in the low carbon transition. Unfortunately, Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler has proposed to weaken standards limiting pollution from new and modified oil and gas facilities.

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One year after corporate methane advocacy commitments, serious doubts emerge

The credibility of recent industry methane commitments is under the microscope.

One year ago, many of the world’s top oil and gas companies publicly committed to support methane policies and regulations to reduce emissions from the global oil and gas industry. But today, serious doubts are emerging about whether the companies will keep their promise in the face of extreme regulatory rollbacks in the largest oil and gas producing nation in the world—the United States.

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Methane rollbacks create moment of truth for oil and gas executives

How top energy companies engage in the U.S. methane policy debate in the coming weeks may tell us a lot about the future of natural gas.

As these companies have themselves recognized, the role of natural gas in a world that can—and must—decarbonize depends on minimizing harmful emissions of methane from across oil and gas production and the natural gas value chain. But a recent comprehensive study involving dozens of leading academics and companies around the country found that U.S. methane emissions from industry are 60 percent higher than prior estimates—enough to double the climate impact of natural gas.

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4 Takeaways from the 2018 World Gas Conference

For years, conversations at major oil and gas industry conferences focused on one thing: the shale revolution. Excitement about the surge in economical new supply of unconventionally produced oil and gas was palpable, as panelists spoke of the potential for shale to transform everything from the geopolitics of American energy supply to the price of hydrocarbons. With such an unexpected and seismic change, a supply side story carried the day, with a focus on “below ground” drivers of energy abundance.

But today, the shale revolution is simply the new normal and the conversation has changed. “Above ground” factors like increasing competition from renewables, greenhouse gas emissions, and license to operate will affect demand for natural gas for years. How industry confronts such challenges – both in the United States and internationally – will have a lot to do with industry’s longevity in putting resources to productive use in a changing world demanding cleaner energy

At last week’s World Gas Conference in Washington, DC, difficult questions swirled about whether industry has done enough to earn societal trust that natural gas has a constructive role to play in the transition to a low carbon economy. The biggest buzz of all surrounded one key issue: methane emissions, a core strategic challenge for the oil and gas industry.

I remember from experience that methane began as a niche issue years ago, mentioned by engineering and science teams, not CEOs. World Gas Conference 2018 left no doubt that those days are over, and that tackling methane must become part of business as usual. Here are four key takeaways. Read more

What the heck is an environmental group doing at the World Gas Conference?

The simple answer is this. Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) approaches challenges pragmatically. If we want to rid the planet of harmful climate pollution, our efforts must include working with the industries that can make the biggest difference.

That means I spend a lot of my time working with leaders from the oil and gas industry. While we don’t always agree, we forge solutions wherever we can.

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Five things to watch as industry tackles methane in 2018

  1. Target setting

This year, 10 leading companies through the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative supported the ambition of achieving “near zero” methane emissions, and committed to set quantitative methane targets in 2018. This was an important and welcome moment as CEOs upped their methane pledge. 2018 will be a key year for follow through in establishing and announcing those targets. We will look for targets that are ambitious, innovation-forcing, and linked to credible plans for verification. We will also look that this action addresses emissions from both oil and gas production, as the International Energy Agency’s data shows that more methane emissions comes from oil production than from gas production.

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Leading methane commitment from Exxon’s U.S. driller: Why it matters

The degree to which the oil and gas industry can be trusted to play a constructive role in a low carbon future depends in no small measure on whether and how it reduces climate pollution today. That’s why company insiders, investors, and policy makers should take careful note of the sensible and innovative commitments announced by XTO Energy, the ExxonMobil subsidiary that leads the United States in natural gas production.

The industry’s many outside stakeholders both in the U.S. and around the world are increasingly calling for emission reductions and greater commitment to cleaner production. Companies that heed those calls, and advance new technologies, will be much better positioned to answer society’s demands for responsibility. Read more

Natural gas, meet Silicon Valley. The challenge for mobile methane monitoring is now underway

Oil and gas methane monitoring

Three years ago, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) united with oil and gas industry leaders including Shell and Statoil to launch the Methane Detectors Challenge – a collaborative effort to catalyze the development and deployment of stationary, continuous methane monitors. With industry pilot projects now cropping up from Texas to Alberta, continuous methane monitoring on natural gas sites is on a pathway to become one of the core tools in the monitoring toolkit.

And that’s a good thing – 24/7 monitoring is the gold standard for emissions control, opening a new frontier in site-level insight. It will enable real time identification and repair of natural gas waste that pollutes the atmosphere, and the industry’s own reputation.

Now, another exciting area of innovation is emerging, as entrepreneurs, technologists, and academics pursue mobile approaches to monitor leaks. Whether by plane, helicopter, drone or truck, mobile monitoring offers the promise of surveying highly dispersed industrial facilities – including smaller and older ones – quickly and effectively. With an estimated one million well pads in the United States alone, the speed and coverage of monitoring matter.

Environmental Defense Fund takes oil and gas operators and local media for a demonstration of mobile monitoring technology from Apogee Scientific

Mobile methane monitoring for some sites could be a perfect complement to continuous monitoring for others, offering a 1-2 punch solution to comprehensively monitor and address emissions across a highly variable industry, with fit-for-purpose tools.

A new collaborative challenge to reduce methane

That’s why we are so pleased to support Stanford University’s Natural Gas Initiative by announcing the Stanford/EDF Mobile Monitoring Challenge (MMC). The MMC is the latest collaborative innovation project from EDF, partnering with Dr. Adam Brandt of Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences, the principal investigator for MMC and one of the world’s leading scientists studying oil and gas methane emissions.

Stanford/EDF Mobile Monitoring Challenge – Now accepting applications

The aim of the Mobile Monitoring Challenge is to rigorously test and compare the most promising new mobile technologies and approaches to quickly detect and quantify methane emissions – with extra interest in commercially scalable options.

Calling all methane monitoring entrepreneurs

Today begins a 45-day application period for technologists around the world who wish to participate in 15 days of field trials. Stanford and EDF, aided by industry and other expert advisors, will pick the most promising submissions this fall, and Professor Brandt’s team will oversee field testing with controlled releases of methane this winter and spring, culminating in a Stanford paper documenting results for the peer-review process.

Candidates for the Mobile Monitoring Challenge should have methane monitoring technology that:

  • Is field ready
  • Can be deployed on a mobile platform (e.g. drone, plane, car, truck, etc.)
  • Is cost-effective and can quickly detect leaks at multiple sites
  • Provides both detection and quantification

See the Stanford/EDF application process for full details.

With subsequent real world testing and demonstration, the leading mobile monitoring approaches coming out of this initiative may even support regulatory compliance, propelling greater emission reductions at even less cost – the classic win/win.

[Tweet “How innovations in tech can help eradicate climate warming methane emissions – learn more”]

Three years ago, EDF was encouraged to receive dozens of technology applications from around the world for the Methane Detectors Challenge. With the ongoing sensor revolution coupled with the surge in methane emissions interest across North America and the world, we are even more optimistic today about what the future holds.

That’s because at EDF, we know that bringing the right stakeholders together to harness diverse thinking and innovative technologies is the next wave of environmental progress.

Let the challenge begin!


Follow Ben on Twitter, @RatnerBen


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