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Environmental group finds Permian methane leaks in significant quantities
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Environmental group finds Permian methane leaks in significant quantities

The Permian Basin is still leaking methane from oil and natural gas operations. Industry and government are taking action to stop this powerful greenhouse gas.

The Environmental Defense Fund reported recently that 40% of the nearly 900 oil and natural gas wells that were surveyed by helicopter Nov. 12-21, were emitting significant methane plumes.

One-third of the observed emissions were caused by malfunctioning flares. A third of smaller wells produced emissions that lasted for days. According to the environmental group that has been surveying West Texas’ oil fields with a special infrared camera mounted on a helicopter since 2019, nearly a third (or more) of the surveyed pipelines had emissions. About half of processing or transportation operations also had emissions.

There are many reasons why a site could be emitting high levels methane. David Lyon, a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund, stated that it is essential to inspect sites regularly for pollution problems. Our research has shown that leaks can occur at all types facilities, including smaller, more susceptible wells. The best way to reduce emissions is to fix them.

In the face of rising public concern about climate change, investors, government regulators and environmental groups are pressing the oil and gas industry to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Particularly, oil companies and regulators are focused upon lowering methane emissions. This is a potent greenhouse gases that is 84x more powerful than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new regulations that would require oil companies to regularly identify and fix methane omissions at facilities built before 2015. According to the proposed regulation which is part the Biden administration’s goal of reducing methane emissions to 30% by 2030, operators would have to conduct a one time inspection of smaller facilities. The EPA is currently accepting public comments about its new methane regulation until Jan. 31.

FLARINGExxon Mobil will use satellites to detect methane in Permian Basin

Oil companies are trying eliminate routine flaring, which is the regular burning natural gas, by using drones to detect leaks, and converting more of their production operations to electrical fleets. Exxon Mobil, America’s largest oil company, announced recently plans to use two-dozen satellites to detect methane leaking from the Permian Basin.

According to Rystad, a Norwegian energy research company, these flaring reduction efforts seem to be driving down U.S. Flaring levels to their lowest level since at most 2012, Rystad reports. In September, the U.S. flinched between 380 million to 390 million cubic yards per day of natural gasoline. This is a decrease from June’s peak of over 1.4 billion cubic feet/day.

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