Reducing methane emissions is a low-cost, high-impact way to curb the effects of climate change. Methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping atmospheric heat, meaning reducing methane emissions is the most impactful way to slow climate change
Super-emitting events represent 8% to 12% of global methane emissions from oil and gas operations despite comprising less than .1% of oil and gas wells.
Steven Hamburg, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, said reducing such disastrous leaks — “super” or “ultra” emitters — is “low-hanging fruit” in mitigating the impacts of global warming.
Eliminating massive leaks, is a low-cost way to gain clear economic, climate, and health benefits. Eradicating ultra-emitters would represent the equivalent of removing 20 million vehicles from the road each year.
“This is likely to be among the very most cost-effective methane reductions you can get,” said Drew Shindell, a Duke University earth science professor and co-author of Thursday’s study. “This is somewhere, in principle, where we should be able to make rapid and substantial progress.”
The next generation of satellites is around the corner and will detect smaller methane sources and leaks. Satellites launches by the Environmental Defense Fund (MethaneSat), California (Carbon Mapper), and NASA (Geostationary Carbon Observatory) are planned, and will collect detailed global emissions data.
Hamburg said the new findings highlight how shutting down ultra-emitters is important to reduce global methane emissions. “It’s necessary to do, but it’s not sufficient,” he said of stopping only the biggest leaks. “It’s only a small slice of a very large opportunity.”
The bulk of methane emissions from oil and gas comes from less dramatic but more persistent sources — leaking wells, faulty flares, and other infrastructure that collectively have an even more detrimental climate footprint.
The U.S. has more than double the amount of orphan oil and gas wells than previously thought, according to a recent Interior Department analysis. Orphan wells can pose safety and environmental risks, leaking methane and other volatile organic compounds into soil, groundwater, and the atmosphere.
The Interior Department reports there are currently more than 130,000 documented orphan wells in the U.S., a significant increase from the 2019 report of 56,600 orphan wells. For too long operators have shirked responsibility leaving taxpayers to foot the bill. The REGROW Act addresses the existing backlog of orphan wells left by legacy operations, but without responsible well ownership moving forward we’ll be back to square one. Fortunately, many companies have recognized this and are already doing their part to responsibly decommission their end-of-life wells
While eliminating fugitive emissions from these sources will require greater investment than remediating “super-emitters”, it is a necessary next step to decarbonize the oil and gas industry which remains the most vital source of energy in the world. Investment rather than divestment is needed to transition to a greener future. Instead of outsourcing production elsewhere where emissions mitigation is essentially nonexistent, the U.S. should lead the way by producing clean oil and gas.
While decreasing emissions will undoubtedly require more spending, technological innovation is already making these emissions mitigation more and more economical. Innovative technologies are abound, from rapid advances in emissions monitoring to revolutionary natural sealing solutions. For leaks in oil and gas wells, BioSqueeze®, offers a natural solution that permanently seals leakage pathways, eliminating fugitive emissions and preventing aquifer contamination while saving operators time and money.
Oct 27, 2021
Orphan oil and gas wells idled by companies that cannot pay to plug them are an issue in many states, thanks to volatile energy prices and bankruptcies caused by recent plummets in demand....