CATF & Ceres Analysis: Emissions Decline as Production Soars

Although natural gas production rose by 40 percent from 2015 to 2022, methane emissions simultaneously fell by 37 percent, according to an analysis by environmental groups Ceres and the Clean Air Task Force (CATF) using Environmental Protection Agency data. The report also states that overall greenhouse gas emissions fell by 14 percent while methane and GHG intensity declined 31 percent and 17 percent, respectively, underscoring that even while hitting record production, American energy producers are doing so responsibly and making progress toward key climate goals.


Responsible production

The report also highlighted the methane intensity in key oil and gas basins, which continues to trend downward year over year. For example, the Permian Basin has a NGSI methane intensity of 0.08 percent, according to the analysis, while the Appalachian Basin comes in at 0.05 percent.

This data come on the heels of an EID analysis that showed across-the-board methane declines in top producing basins. Between 2018 to 2022, top oil and gas basins’ methane emissions in the United States declined from 18 to 77 percent:


In talking about the latest report, Clean Air Task Force’s Research and Analysis Manager on the methane pollution prevention team, Lesley Feldman, said in part:

“It is possible to produce gas with lower emissions…”


At the same time, natural gas also helps progress key U.S. climate goals. As Energy Information Administration’s 2023 U.S. Energy-Related Carbon Dioxide Emissions report shows, natural gas is responsible for the majority of reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from the power sector.


In addition,  highlighting the stringent regulations that American producers must abide by, the International Energy Agency reported that:

“Methane emissions implied by existing oil and gas company reporting are 95% lower than the IEA’s estimate for 2023, while emissions levels reported by countries are about 50% lower.”


CATF and Ceres’ report also references this by highlighting advanced methane detection technologies that can help further reduce emissions, such as drones, satellites, aerial flyovers, and more.

The good news is that the oil and natural gas industry is already actively deploying these technologies to ensure responsible operating footprints.

Notably, the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), composed of oil and gas companies, created the Satellite Monitoring Campaign (SMC) in 2023 to address methane, provide data, and facilitate engagement with facility operators to maintain methane infrastructure.

The SMC provided successful results, halving OGCI’s members’ upstream methane emissions and cutting flaring by 45 percent  from operations, demonstrating the importance of partnerships within the private sector.

In addition, the Environmental Partnership –  representing nearly 70 percent of U.S. onshore oil and gas operations –  put in place the Pneumatic Controller Program, amongst many other initiatives, to drive down emissions from equipment

The Environmental Partnership focuses on emission sources across the supply chain and works hand-in-hand with the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program to access the most reliable data. Through its pneumatics program, it enabled the industry to replace, remove or retrofit 61,700 gas-driven pneumatic controllers with low- or zero-emitting devices – an area specifically pointed out by CATF and Ceres as the largest source of total reported production methane emissions.


Natural gas is needed for future

These analyses highlight that natural gas can both meet demand and provide progress toward key climate goals – a necessary duality considering natural gas remains a key solution for energy security and reliability.

In California, for instance, just this week Bloomberg reported that the state could not afford anything but natural gas or nuclear power for their grid to respond to extreme weather and power demandand ensure energy security. Elliot Mainzer, chief executive officer of the California Independent System Operator, said:

“California will still need natural gas plants and nuclear energy for the immediate future as it races to ramp up renewable power.”


Similarly, natural gas is also a critical solution for supplying the increased power necessary for tech companies to develop AI data centers. Goldman Sachs projected earlier this year that natural gas will supply 60 percent of the power demand growth from AI and data centers by 2030, whereas renewables will provide the remaining 40 percent.


Bottom Line:

Natural gas is needed for the long haul and American producers are continuously proving they can both boost production for record growth while also decreasing emissions.

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