The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has launched a new voluntary partnership program that seeks to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Simply because the proposed activity is focused higher up the supply chain that natural gas fuel for transportation, the anticipated environmental benefits must eventually flow through to the fuel supply sector, lowering well-to-wheel and well-to-vessel emissions and thereby further enhancing the appeal of natural gas powered mobility.
The Natural Gas STAR Methane Challenge Program, launched at this week’s Global Methane Forum by the EPA with 41 founding partner companies, would invite companies with operations throughout the natural gas value chain – onshore production, gathering and boosting, processing, transmission, storage, and distribution segments – and in onshore oil production to commit to action under the Challenge. That action will focus on achieving cost-effective methane emission reductions from natural gas operations.
NGVAmerica sees a clear upside for the natural gas for transportation sector: “Recent natural gas vehicle technologies are providing a positive impact on downstream emissions. These vehicle technologies combined with new technologies upstream can enhance the emissions value proposition of natural gas vehicles”, explained Dan Bowerson, Director for Technology & Development at NGVAmerica, to NGV Global News.
The Proposed Framework document states: “While tremendous progress has been made during the last 20 years through the Natural Gas STAR Program, significant opportunities remain to reduce methane emissions, improve air quality, and capture and monetize this valuable energy resource. The proposed Methane Challenge Program will create a platform for leading companies to go above and beyond existing voluntary action and make meaningful and transparent commitments to yield significant methane emissions reductions in a quick, flexible, cost-effective way.”
The two hallmarks of the proposed program – ambitious commitments and transparency – will facilitate information sharing about accomplishments and progress made. Thus, the program can serve as a catalyst for broad industry adoption of best practices to reduce emissions.
“To protect public health and combat climate change, today, we are expanding our voluntary partnerships to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector through our new Methane Challenge program, which is a platform for companies to transparently report actions to reduce methane emissions and to be publicly recognized as leaders in reducing methane emissions in the United States,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The voluntary Methane Challenge program is one important part of our overarching strategy to reduce methane emissions, and complements regulatory efforts that will help the United States meet the Obama Administration’s goal of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 percent by 2025.”
The Methane Challenge Program will provide partner companies with a platform to make company-wide commitments to cut emissions from sources within their operations by implementing a suite of best management practices within five years. Transparency is a fundamental part of the program, and partner achievements will be tracked by submitting annual data directly to EPA.
EPA expects program participation to grow over time and is actively working to expand the options for participation by finalizing an additional Emissions Intensity Commitment option through the ONE Future Coalition. ONE Future is a coalition of natural gas companies focused on increasing efficiency across the natural gas supply chain.
Another key outcome of the Global Methane Forum is the re-chartering of the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) for the next five years. In addition, the Forum has provided an opportunity for the GMI, the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, and the United Nation’s Economic Commission for Europe to collaborate in strategically aligning their methane mitigation activities.
The GMI is a partnership of 43 countries, including the United States, aimed at achieving cost-effective methane reductions across five sectors: municipal solid waste, wastewater, agriculture, coal, and the oil and gas sector. NGV Global welcomes the impetus to make natural gas an even cleaner fuel for transportation. Of particular interest is increased activity in the harvesting of methane generated from waste and other organic sources — effectively CO2-free renewable natural gas — and the harnessing of previously flared gas, to power low-emission natural gas engines.
Together, GMI’s 43 partner countries account for approximately 70 percent of global methane emissions from targeted sources. Since 2004, partner countries avoided nearly 350 MMTCO2e in methane emissions from these sources.
(Source: based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency press release)