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Natural gas waste

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

ICF International has conducted a new economic analysis for the Environmental Defence Fund. The analysis has confirmed that oil and gas companies operating on federal and tribal US lands are squandering natural gas worth over US$360 million/y at current market prices, wasting a valuable public asset and generating harmful pollution. The problem starts when gas is either burned off, intentionally vented, or leaked from well sites and other oil and gas infrastructure on federal and tribal lands. The report comes as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) prepares to release new rules for oil and gas operators on venting, flaring and other waste.

Mark Brownstein, EDF, VP for Climate and Energy commented, “the oil and gas industry is wasting a valuable public resource and making life difficult for their neighbours in the process by damaging both local air quality and the climate. Solutions to the problem are simple, straightforward, and cost effective. It’s not hard to do. But it’s not going to happen without new rules.”


The analysis has said that oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands emitted more than 1 million t of methane in 2013, approximately 12% of the nation’s methane emissions as a whole. Gas production operations on federal and tribal lands represented approximately 21% of national emissions from gas production, even though these lands account for only 14% of gas production.

ICF found that Western states tended to have higher emissions from oil and gas activity on federal and tribal lands, due to the fact that natural gas production on federal and tribal lands is largely concentrated in Western states. New Mexico and Wyoming reported the highest methane emissions on federal lands, and Utah the largest emitter on tribal. High emissions were also seen in Colorado and California. Despite its small amount of public land, Pennsylvania showed methane emissions on par with some Western states, due to its volume of natural gas activity on lands managed by the US Forest Service.


In the analysis ICF examined a range of proven, cost effective technologies and best practices that could be applied to the emission sources it found, including frequent leak inspection and repair programs. ICF has estimated a potential to reduce emissions to the atmosphere by over 25 billion ft3/y of whole gas, or approximately 40% of total emissions, by practicing well known pollution reduction strategies that cost pennies on the dollar to implement.

Tomas Carbonell, Director, Regulatory Policy, EDF’s Climate and Air Program said, “ICF’s analysis underscores just how important it is that BLM proposes strong standards to minimise waste and reduce emissions. BLM has a responsibility to taxpayers to reduce the massive natural gas waste from oil and gas development happening on public lands, and this report shows there are common sense reduction opportunities that exist to help do that.”

Edited from press release by Claira Lloyd

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