EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory Continues to Show Falling Emissions

EPA has just released its final Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the year, and there’s a lot of good news to be gleaned from it. The data clearly show that methane emissions from both natural gas and petroleum systems have declined significantly from 1990. These emissions also decreased from 2014 to 2015 – at a time when natural gas production hit record highs.

One particular passage in the report captures many of the declines that have occurred:

“Methane emissions from natural gas systems and petroleum systems (combined here) decreased from 249.5 MMT CO2 Eq. in 1990 to 202.3 MMT CO2 Eq. (47.2 MMT CO2 Eq. or 18.9 percent) from 1990 to 2015. Natural gas systems CH4 emissions decreased by 31.6 MMT CO2 Eq. (16.3 percent) since 1990, largely due to a decrease in emissions from transmission, storage, and distribution. The decrease in transmission and storage emissions is largely due to reduced compressor station emissions (including emissions from compressors and fugitives). The decrease in distribution emissions is largely attributed to increased use of plastic piping, which has lower emissions than other pipe materials, and station upgrades at metering and regulating (M&R) stations. Petroleum systems CH4 emissions decreased by 15.6 MMT CO2 Eq. (or 28.1 percent) since 1990. This decrease is due primarily to decreases in emissions from associated gas venting.”

Just to summarize: methane emissions from natural gas and petroleum systems combined decreased by almost 19 percent from 1990 to 2015. During that same time frame, methane emissions from natural gas systems decreased by 16.3 percent, while methane emissions from petroleum systems decreased by an impressive 28.1 percent.

EPA notes that methane emissions from natural gas systems fell 0.1 percent from 2014 to 2015 while methane emissions from petroleum systems fell a full 8 percent from 2014 to 2015, due to reductions in venting and flaring:

“Production segment CH4 emissions have decreased by around 8 percent from 2014 levels, primarily due to decreases in emissions from associated gas venting and flaring.”

The picture for overall methane emissions is positive as well: EPA notes they “decreased by 16.0 percent since 1990.”

Last April, EID illustrated how questionable methodology led to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) upwardly revising its estimates of methane emissions from oil and natural gas systems. That methodology hasn’t changed so it’s likely that – even with these decreases – EPA is still overestimating emissions due to its faulty methodology (EPA has been assuming that large facilities have the same emissions as small ones).

EID will have a deeper dive soon, but for now, the data paint a very positive picture of responsible development leading to falling emissions – and that deserves attention today.


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