New EPA Data Show Methane Emissions from Large Oil & Natural Gas Facilities Continue to Plummet

As the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to press on with its costly methane regulations on the oil and natural gas industry, more and more evidence that the rules are unnecessary continues to surface — including data from the EPA itself.

The agency’s latest Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program data, released this week, show that methane emissions from larger oil and natural gas facilities continue to plummet. According to the EPA, methane emissions from reporting facilities in the petroleum and natural gas systems sector declined 3.7 percent from 2014 levels in 2015 and are down 16 percent from 2011 levels, as the following EID graphic illustrates.

Data from EPA's Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program shows that methane emissions from large O&G facilities continue to plummet.

Data from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program shows that methane emissions from large O&G facilities continue to plummet.

EPA’s latest GHGRP data also show that total GHG emissions from the petroleum and natural gas systems sector are down 1.6 percent (231.4 down from 235.1) from 2014 levels.

Methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing specifically also continue to decline rapidly, falling 89 percent since 2011, as the following EPA graphic illustrates.


The GHGRP includes emissions data from the more than 2,400 oil and natural gas system facilities that emit 25,000 million metric tons or more of greenhouse gases on an annual basis. This includes production, processing, pipelines, storage, distribution and import/export facilities.

This new data raises an obvious question: How has EPA determined that methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems have gone up according to its latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory (which used new methodology to upwardly revise emissions by 34 percent)?

The short answer: Manipulation of data from smaller facilities.

As EID covered back in April, EPA is now assuming that smaller facilities that do not report to the GHGRP have similar emissions rates as larger ones. So EPA basically extrapolated data from large facilities reported on subpart W of the GHGRP onto smaller facilities for which it did not have solid data. This is obviously not a sound method to calculate emissions, resulting in a significant overestimation of emissions in EPA’s latest Greenhouse Gas Inventory.

Despite these questionable revisions, EPA’s “official” methane emission rates still remain quite low.

According to EPA data, the natural gas methane leakage rate is roughly 1.5 percent, which falls in line with several studies spearheaded by the Environmental Defense Fund (which, ironically, is pushing for regulations based on the notion that emissions are higher than previously believed), as well as studies by University of Colorado at Boulder/NOAAMIT and the University of Maryland. The U.S. Department of EnergyCarnegie Mellon and Cornell University found very low methane leakage rates ranging from 1.2 percent to 1.6 percent, which is far below the threshold (2.7 percent) for natural gas to be substantially beneficial for the climate.

Other recent studies have also put the U.S. oil and natural gas industry’s overall contribution to global methane emissions into perspective.

A study was recently released showing that biogenic sources —virtually ignored by environmentalists in their efforts to “combat climate change”— are actually to blame for the recent increase in global methane emissions. Another study released in March reached exactly the same conclusion.

Another new study shows that man-made reservoirs produce as much methane as all the world’s rice paddies, which have been estimated to be responsible for 10-12 percent of the world’s methane emissions. U.S. oil and natural gas system methane emissions, by comparison, account for just 3.4 percent of global methane emissions.

So, considering dams and rice paddies are emitting three times as much methane as U.S. oil and natural gas systems, it begs the question: Why are EPA and environmental groups continuing to focus all their attention on methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems?

Considering EID research has shown EPA’s methane regulations will have virtually no climate impact — reducing global temperatures a mere four one-thousandths of one degree by the year 2100 — it would seem reasonable for environmentalists to turn their attention to more important matters.



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