Plugging leaks in compressors and pipes can be done for about $2.2 billion industry-wide, the Environmental Defence Fund and ICF International said in a report released recently.
That equates to less than 1 cent per thousand cubic feet of gas produced and would be offset over time by the sale of captured gas, the report said.
“There is huge opportunity here for little or no cost,” Mark Brownstein, chief counsel for the New York-based Environmental Defence Fund, was quoted as saying. “In some ways, moving industry in this direction is going to actually help industry be more productive and more profitable.”
Methane, which makes up the bulk of natural gas, is more than 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. While natural gas burns cleaner than coal, the net effect on emissions from from the fuel is said to be on par with coal due to “fugitive” releases from wellhead to power plant.
Methane emissions from oil and gas activities are projected to grow 4.5% from 2011 to 2018, the recent study says. By putting in place systems to detect and capture methane along the transportation line, industry can capture 163 billion cubic feet of methane a year, or about 40% of projected leaks by then.
US regulators have moved to require more stringent guidelines for gas wells, which the gas industry has resisted.
“The industry has led efforts to reduce emissions of methane by developing new technologies and equipment,” the American Petroleum Institute said in a statement. “Methane is natural gas, so capturing more of it helps companies deliver more energy to consumers.”