Analysis: Methane Emissions Intensity Declines in Top Shale Basins
Saturday, April 27, 2019
Increased natural gas consumption has generated a truly incredible story for the environment as U.S. greenhouse gas emissions have fallen to their lowest levels since 1992. But the air quality improvements go even further, as a new Energy In Depth analysis shows: The U.S. oil and gas industry is also making incredible progress in reducing methane emissions as production surges in America’s top shale basins.
Methane emissions from onshore U.S. oil and natural gas production fell 24 percent, while oil and natural gas production rose 65 percent and 19 percent, respectively, from 2011 to 2017, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Energy Information Administration.
As EID’s latest infographic shows, even more incredible is the rate at which methane emissions intensity – or emissions per unit of production – has declined in the top U.S. oil and natural gas basins.
The Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico is home to the world’s top producing oilfield and some of the highest natural gas production in the country. This significant production has resulted in major economic benefits for the region.
Annual methane emissions from Permian production fell from 4.8 million metric tons (MMT) to 4.6 MMT from 2011 to 2017. Simultaneously, combined oil and natural gas annual average production jumped from 638.9 million barrels of oil equivalent (Boe) to 1.4 billion Boe. The result was a 57 percent reduction in methane emissions per unit of oil and gas produced.
From 2011 to 2017, methane emissions intensity in the Permian Basin – which is producing more oil than any other basin on Earth – was cut in half.
If the Appalachian Basin were a country, it would be the third largest natural gas producing nation in the world. The region has transformed into a natural gas producing powerhouse in the past decade, and is also attracting billions of dollars in new manufacturing investment as a result.
From 2011 to 2017, combined oil and natural gas annual average production grew from 322 million Boe to 1.5 billion Boe. At the same time, methane emissions from production in the basin fell from 5.3 MMT to 4.7 MMT, resulting in an emissions intensity reduction of 82 percent.
The U.S. oil and natural gas industry is stepping up to reduce its environmental footprint. Methane emissions reductions are an important focus of the industry, and as EID’s new analysis demonstrates, the technological innovation and increased efforts are having real results in some of the most prolific U.S. shale basins. As the Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Executive Vice President Lee Fuller stated:
“America’s oil and natural gas producers are working hard to develop America’s own abundant resources in a safe and environmentally sound manner. The federal government’s own data confirms methane emissions have fallen in recent years and are continuing to drop, even as oil and natural gas production has risen. As technology has improved, the industry’s processes have become more efficient. Responsible energy development has and will continue to play a leading role in making the United States the world leader in greenhouse gas reductions.”
Note: Methane emissions intensity figures were calculated using production data from the EIA Drilling Productivity Report and emissions data from the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. Daily annual average production data was multiplied by 365 to get annual figures. Natural gas production figures were converted from cubic feet to barrel of oil equivalent (Boe). Methane emissions were divided by total combined oil and natural gas production in Boe.