Gas pipelines, flares pollute air more than feds report

I saw this article reprinted in my local paper. Yahoo! is also carrying the article:

Some key points for the METAR crowd:

And those emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas, from leaking lines could be up to 14 times higher than previously estimated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, read an Oct. 4 report from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

The pipeline owners may find themselves compelled by regulators to plug the leaks, thus driving up operating costs for the pipelines. The gas producers are price takers, so those additional costs will erode profits.

They surveyed more than 10,000 miles of gathering pipelines in each of the four aerial campaigns, finding the lines emit 213,000 metric tons of methane – about 2.7 metric tons per year per kilometer, read the report.

That’s the climate impact, the EDF estimated, of 3.7 million cars or trucks and enough gas to meet the power needs of 2.1 million homes.

If that same rate was applied to gas gathering pipelines throughout the U.S., the report said it would increase the EPA’s national estimate by 27 percent.

The EPA may be significantly underestimating methane leakage (27% too low), and thus significantly underestimating the US’s contribution to climate change. This may further drive regulation in this space, or drive regulation in other spaces to make up for the shortfall. Or, of course, the US federal government may just stick its head in the sand and do nothing.

I have no idea what will happen going forward. If you invest in pipelines you may want to watch this story for developments.

Regards,

– HCF

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In a related topic…
The people here who think hydrogen is going to become a major energy source need to understand this leakage issue. H2 is a smaller molecule than methane, and more easily leaks to the environment. If you are going to spend the energy and money to electrolyze water, for instance, it would be wasteful to let some of that hydrogen leak out before it can be used.

Not only that, but leaked hydrogen also contributes to the greenhouse effect, albeit indirectly. See following…
https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy/news/scientists-warn-against-global-warming-effect-of-hydrogen-leaks/

From the link:
“Hydrogen that leaks to the atmosphere is such a potent greenhouse gas because it extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere, causing it to stick around and continue contributing to the greenhouse effect,” he told EURACTIV.

“Hydrogen reacts to form tropospheric ozone, which also contributes to the greenhouse effect. And hydrogen also breaks down into water vapour in the stratosphere, which also contributes to the greenhouse effect,” he added.

I don’t understand the chemistry of how hydrogen “extends the lifetime of methane in the atmosphere”, but the quote comes from a lead author with the UN IPCC, so there is probably something to it.

  • Pete
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Pete

For the most part any leak that would allow H out would be big enough to let Methane out. But they are two different piping systems either way.

The problem with the statement is it is not quantified. Just saying there is a potential chemical reaction does not mean it amounts to much.

Unless someone wants to quantify these statements it is more hackery.

The people here who think hydrogen is going to become a major energy source need to understand this leakage issue. H2 is a smaller molecule than methane, and more easily leaks to the environment. If you are going to spend the energy and money to electrolyze water, for instance, it would be wasteful to let some of that hydrogen leak out before it can be used.

I was surprised to learn that hydrogen pipelines are already a thing. Leakage is a concern.

The main thing for me, on both the methane and hydrogen pipelines, is that I never really considered leakage before. In both cases it’s a fairly big deal. And, as I alluded to in my original post, I think you can reasonably expect this to be an area of greater regulatory focus in the future.

Regards,

– HCF

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Leakage has been in the news for the last 10 years. O&G companies do not want to spend the money to fix the leaks. Government regulations have failed to become law because the party that supports O&G does not let these regulations become law.

WASHINGTON (Nov. 2, 2021) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) took an important step forward to advance President Biden’s commitment to action on climate change and protect people’s health by proposing comprehensive new protections to sharply reduce pollution from the oil and natural gas industry – including, for the first time, reductions from existing sources nationwide. The proposed new Clean Air Act rule would lead to significant, cost-effective reductions in methane emissions and other health-harming air pollutants that endanger nearby communities. As part of today’s action, to inform a supplemental proposal, EPA is seeking comment on additional sources of methane to further strengthen emission controls and increase reductions from oil and gas operations. EPA is issuing the proposal in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Protecting Public Health and the Environment and Restoring Science to Tackle the Climate Crisis.

"As global leaders convene at this pivotal moment in Glasgow for COP26, it is now abundantly clear that America is back and leading by example in confronting the climate crisis with bold ambition,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “With this historic action, EPA is addressing existing sources from the oil and natural gas industry nationwide, in addition to updating rules for new sources, to ensure robust and lasting cuts in pollution across the country. By building on existing technologies and encouraging innovative new solutions, we are committed to a durable final rule that is anchored in science and the law, that protects communities living near oil and natural gas facilities, and that advances our nation’s climate goals under the Paris Agreement.”

One third of the warming from greenhouse gases occurring today is due to human-caused emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that traps about 30 times as much heat as carbon dioxide over 100 years, and sharp cuts over the next decade will have a near-term beneficial impact on the climate. In the United States, the oil and natural gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane emissions, emitting more methane than the total emissions of all greenhouse gases from 164 countries combined. Oil and natural gas operations also emit smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and toxic air pollutants such as benzene that harm public health.

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