New Analysis: Methane Emissions from Venting and Flaring Lower than Previously Thought

Data raise questions about controversial Obama-era methane rule

A new review of federal data from Texans for Natural Gas highlights how the Obama Administration may have relied on inflated estimates of methane emissions to justify a controversial regulation, known as the Waste Prevention Rule. The rule was finalized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management in December 2016, just weeks before the Obama administration left office.

Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2018 Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) show that methane emissions from oil and gas activities have declined since 1990, and emissions from venting and flaring – the processes targeted by the Obama-era rule – are lower than what previous EPA assessments concluded.

Key findings in the review:

  • Methane emissions from associated gas venting and flaring during petroleum production declined 17 percent between 2013 and 2016, even as domestic oil production increased by 19 percent.
  • Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured natural gas well completions declined 82 percent between 2013 and 2016.
  • Methane emissions from petroleum production in the year 2014 (one of the last years of data available to the Obama administration) are nearly 50 percent lower than what the EPA published in Obama’s last year in office.
  • EPA’s estimates for associated gas venting and flaring in 2015 are now 54 percent lower than what the agency estimated last year. Emissions estimates for prior years show even larger downward revisions.
  • These lower emissions estimates could raise additional questions about controversial federal regulations targeting methane (CH4) from venting and flaring on federal lands.

“This new analysis confirms that methane emissions have declined even as the United States has turned into a global oil and gas superpower,” said Steve Everley, spokesman for Texans for Natural Gas. “Curiously, the Obama administration used emissions data from the EPA to try to justify its 11th-hour venting and flaring rule, claiming those data were representative of what’s occurring on federal and Indian lands. But the EPA now says methane emissions are half of what they were when the BLM finalized this costly regulation. At the very least, this raises legitimate questions about the venting and flaring rule, in addition to the legal problems that are still being sorted out in court.”

Click here to read the full review.

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52 thoughts on “New Analysis: Methane Emissions from Venting and Flaring Lower than Previously Thought

    • The sun rises in the east. They didn’t lie about that.

      The flat out lies aren’t the main problem, imho. The main problem is the selective use of facts. Flat out lies can be detected with fact checking. When you’re dealing with the selective use of facts, it isn’t clear that some details have been omitted. Unless you’re a subject matter expert, you probably won’t know about the omitted details. You may suspect there’s something missing but it will be nigh on impossible to say what it is.

        • Technically known as paltering.

          There is another tactic of lying that I’ve noticed is commonly employed by the progressive-anointed science authorities, i.e. Bill Nye, but I don’t know a name for it. It’s when they give a huge volume of obvious truths and then slip in a factoid or two, like the opposite of a strawman essentially.

    • Obama’s method was pretty much – if you need the data to say a particular thing to move an agenda – put someone in official office that will provide some for you – by any means necessary.

    • That is globalism for you. No one walks into it willingly unless you stand to benefit financially.

  1. Lower than thought? Wild guessing is not thinking .. err, it is for some people.

      • The lower explosive limit is 5% concentration and the upper explosive limit is 15% concentration, so not explosive at a very high concentration. Rather at low concentrations.

  2. Add this to the list of ignored research findings that do not fit with NY style “out of the abundance of caution” crap.

  3. Claims of methane leakage of up to 2.3% of production have been made. But these production systems, when shut in, do not depressure at 2.3% or any percent, which the flying gas detector folks explain away by declaring well casings are leaking to surface, which can also easily be shown in the field to be hogwash.

    • That 2.3% figure is interesting…
      I saw, many moons ago on some website advertising Green Household Products, a device you ‘fitted’ to your gas cooker.
      It was just some sort of wire-mesh catalyser (Stainless steel mixed with Nickel probably) thing you placed under your pan(s) of nutrient free food mush – so it was between the flame and your pan-bottom.

      Its claimed benefit was that it substantially reduced the 5% (five per cent) of the gas that normally escapes in such run-of-the-mill situations thus saving you money and, as a side benefit, Saving The World. win win eh?
      5%…….

      • I’m in the oil and gas business. Unfortunately I often get erased by a gremlin when I write comments, but here it goes: the business involves selling a flammable gas. We get paid for getting it into a customer’s pipe. And anybody who allows gas which can be sold to escape is losing money.

        What you do with it is your business. I’ve looked into it as a money issue. It’s better not to let it escape. Some operators are sloppy, they are like a kid spilling food at the table. Guys like me sweep up the bread crumbs and sell them. I hope this clears the point?

  4. Anyone using a flyover gas detector to say they are measuring natural gas leakage from wells needs to acquaint themselves with the word natural as applied to gas. If they actually detect natural gas over a pad that exceeds a background rate, it does not prove it came from leakage around the well bore. In the case of say the Marcellus Shale, there are plenty of shallow methane bearing coal beds, gas bearing zones above the Marcellus and even swamp gas from fresh water acquirers. I’ve yet to see these jokers prove that any gas they are seeing actually came from the well bore.

    • Many years ago a geologist friend of mine came in to see me saying a sniffer run with a helicopter had identified a leaking fault. So we went, ran seismic, and we found the fault. But the reservoir rocks were terrible, so we dumped the acreage.

    • I read a single paper from the flyby measurement “researchers” and they very meticulously considered all human sources of methane, but didn’t even acknowledge that natural methane seeps occur. And this was in an area where the Niobrara and Pierre Shales (a source of thermogenic gas) crop out at the surface.

  5. Has anyone else noticed anytime an article begins a sentence with “Curiously…” that’s short-hand for “You lying sack of s***…”?

  6. The methane scare needs to be thoroughly debunked here’s why:

    Do a Google news search on (Methane 86 times) and you will come up with oodles of recent stories in the press like this one:

    Celebrating our energy independence
    ” Methane is a significant climate problem — 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a heat-trapping gas.”

    What those news items NEVER tell us is how much methane is projected to increase global temperatures. This site:
    https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends_ch4/
    can be analyzed to show that atmospheric methane is 1858 ppb and is increasing on average 6.3 ppb each year, and it would follow, business as usual, that methane would increase by 516 ppb. by 2100.

    The IPPC’s Global Warming Potential (GWP),
    Table 8.7 IPCC AR5 Chapter 8 Page 714
    where the 86 times comes from compares methane by mass with CO2. So your 11th grade chemistry tells you that a comparable increase in atmospheric CO2 by mass would be 188 ppb. So if you increase methane from 400 ppm to 400.188 an increase of .05% and multiply that times CO2’s absolute climate sensitivity of 1.2°C per doubling
    IPCC’s AR4 Chapter 8.6.2.3
    you will come up with an increase of about 0.05 degrees of warming by 2100. So it’s fairly obvious that we are never told how much methane will run up global temperature because it is an essentially un-measureable nothing.

    The foregoing is a bit convoluted, and difficult to make any simpler which is why the IPCC’s GWP is such successful propaganda.

    • It doesn’t matter, a lot of anthropogenic methane comes from rice, cattle, etc. And China and India put a huge amount in the air from their coal mines. These Greenpeace types just like to pick on oil and gas companies because they are mean.

      • It does matter, California is regulating its dairy herd in order to control methane.

        California Adopts Strict Rules for Methane Emissions
        One of the biggest challenges will be to figure out how to reduce emissions from the state’s 1.4 million dairy cows
        Scientific American

        No one with any common sense is in charge.

  7. Perhaps the Adjustocene should officially start with Barack Hussein Obama’s inauguration in 2009?!!

    On that note, I’d like to wish a ‘Happy Nacho500 Day’ to all citizens of the USA! It’s been 500 days and Hillary Clinton is nacho President! Obama is nacho president either! If I had any fireworks left from the 4th of July, I’d be launching a celebratory salute right now….

  8. Naturally occurring seeps, bio-mass decomposition, and activities of subterranean insects (e.g., termites) likely contribute at least an order of magnitude greater release of methane into the atmosphere than we puny humans (and other animals – cow, moose, swine, etc. flatulence) do.

      • We know, Meatless Mondays for public school kids.

        They want to put us on the bus, in a high rise, tell us what we shall and shall not eat and require permits to travel and have kids.

        • steve case: You complainin’ about it? Because they can make it less pleasant while you get re-educated. Greens are mostly incompetent, but I fear they’ll be very good at running the re-ed camps.

  9. Never been interested in the faux scaremongering about methane, but have to wonder about the title stating that “flaring” methane could be contributing to its increase. No genius here, but figured flaring oxidized it…..

    • Flaring means burning. It does oxidize the stuff. In general, flaring is a bad idea. But sometimes we have to blow down vessels and lines. You know what’s a real heartbreaker? Flaring oil. I’ve had to do it, seen $500,000 go in smoke in one day.

  10. If the profits for my company depend on not letting my product drift off into the distance through leeks I’m going to do all I can to stop them. It might sound odd to some but that’s how you make money.

    James Bull

      • Yep… At $2.85/mcf… A lot of small leaks aren’t worth fixing.

        They flare gas in North Dakota because natural gas prices don’t justify gas pipelines.

        • The state of North Dakota doesn’t know how to regulate the industry. All they had to do is drill from multiple well pads and sequence wells to keep gas lines full. As it was, they drilled too fast and killed the market. I’ve never seen anything that dumb since I consulted for a state oil company in South America.

          • Fernando,
            Might that State Oil Company be in a state with common borders with Brazil and Columbia.
            But not with, perhaps, Chile?

            If so, my experience – on the shipping side – was, essentially, similar!
            And pretty grim!

            Auto

      • I never allow leaks. And if I find a pumper blowing down a well casing I throw a fit. Many years ago, when I was a pup, I was taught we had to have all sites so clean that locals could come and have a picnic. It’s actually a winner, because land owners love working with you, sign for a lower bonus. It’s always good to keep the locals happy, never allow rust, dirt, nothing to make your operations something you won’t show your mom.

    • “into the distance through leeks”

      I could have sworn gas companies used pipes to carry their product?

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