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Greenhouse gas commitments with EPA’s methane challenge

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) methane challenge provides a mechanism for natural gas and other energy companies to make and track commitments, established in collaboration with the EPA, to lower methane emissions that will improve air quality. It is a voluntary programme designed to encourage participants to submit meaningful and ambitious methane reduction commitments and account for the progress transparently, demonstrating ongoing improvements. Several leading companies in the oil and gas sector have already announced their commitment to the scheme.

Washington Gas

Washington Gas, a WGL company has announced that it has joined the EPA’s natural gas STAR methane challenge programme as a founding partner. By joining the EPA’s methane challenge programme, Washington Gas demonstrates its ongoing commitment to greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction. This commitment includes a goal to achieve an 18% reduction in GHG emissions for every unit of natural gas delivered by 2020. Established in 2011 against a 2008 GHG emission baseline, the company is on track to meet this objective.

“WGL has a strong commitment to sustainability as a core company value,” said Terry McCallister, Chairman and CEO of WGL Holdings, Inc and Washington Gas. “We demonstrate this commitment by establishing aggressive emission reduction objectives for our own operations and by offering our customers energy answers from a well balanced portfolio that includes renewable solutions, energy efficiency services and green power.”

Washington Gas has also established a goal to reduce GHG emissions from its fleet and facilities operations by 70% by 2020. The company expects to announce achievement of this goal well ahead of schedule based on a number of initiatives. At its Washington Gas LEED gold certified facility in Springfield, Virginia, for example, up to 35% of the building’s base load power comes from an onsite solid oxide fuel cell that generates electricity through a process with far less emissions than grid generated electricity. The Washington Gas fleet reduced its carbon footprint by 25%, primarily by deploying nearly 200 clean burning natural gas vehicles.

Pacific Gas & Electric Company

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has furthered its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by joining the US EPA’s natural gas methane challenge as a founding partner, joining with 40 other US companies. This voluntary programme, aimed at reducing emissions from the oil and gas industry, aligns with PG&E’s goals to deliver safe, reliable and clean energy resources to its customers.

“At PG&E we have taken an aggressive stance on combating climate change and we embrace initiatives that encourage the industry to seek out new and innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Our commitment to addressing climate change is an integral part of our business and our overall efforts to provide customers with safe and clean energy now and for future generations,” said PG&E’s Gas President Nick Stavropoulos.

As part of the challenge, PG&E has committed to further reduce emissions from its natural gas transmission and distribution systems and will adopt five best management practices recommended by the EPA over the next five years. The best management practices focus on mitigation and improvements to venting, transmission blowdowns, pneumatic controllers, rod packing and excavation damages.

Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation at the EPA said, “We are pleased that PG&E is stepping up to join this effort as a founding partner, committing to technologies, strategies, and practices, to reduce their emissions and setting the example of a more sustainable path for their peers.”

As a dedicated partner in the EPA’s natural gas STAR programme, PG&E has supported the programme since 2008 and worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, by making investments in infrastructure, modernising its gas systems and by using next generation technologies. PG&E has also led efforts to improve transparency and reporting on greenhouse gas emissions. The carbon disclosure project, an international not for profit organisation, named PG&E to the S&P climate disclosure leadership index in recognition of the company’s perfect 100 score on its disclosure of emissions data.

In 2015, PG&E formed an external advisory council to help guide the company’s sustainability efforts. The council provides input and recommendations to PG&E as it seeks to address climate change and advance its clean energy, environmental stewardship, economic development and community vitality initiatives.

Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy joined the launch of the US EPA’s natural gas STAR methane challenge programme. As a founding member of the programme, the company is committed to expanding its efforts to reduce methane emissions from its natural gas system.

“Joining the methane challenge supports our proactive approach to operating and maintaining a natural gas system that benefits our customers,” said Cheryl Campbell, Xcel Energy Senior Vice President of Gas. “By participating, we’re continuing to advance best management practices that support clean, safe and reliable service by keeping natural gas flowing through our pipelines, where it belongs.”

Though methane emissions from natural gas systems are less than 1% of Xcel Energy’s GHG emissions, the company joined the EPA’s natural gas STAR programme in 2008 in an effort to reduce emissions. Since then, the company has reduced methane emissions by nearly 303 000 million ft3, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 20 000 homes using electricity.

Xcel Energy has improved its natural gas system by removing all 880 miles of cast iron pipe from its system. It also used pressure reductions during pipeline maintenance and repairs, and increased efforts to prevent third party dig-ins and other damage to property.

“Xcel Energy has already made great strides in reducing methane emissions,” said Campbell. “Still, we can do more and plan to address one of the larger emission sources, the venting of pipelines during scheduled construction projects.”Through a combination of methods, the company estimates it can reduce by about half the escaping methane emissions from venting pipelines during scheduled construction.

Xcel Energy helped shape the methane challenge programme and its design through its involvement with the American Gas Association and the Downstream Initiative, a collaboration of natural gas energy providers working to address technical and regulatory issues associated with reducing methane emissions from the distribution system.

Edited from various sources by Francesca Brindle

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