Collaborating to improve understanding of methane emissions along the natural gas value chain

Methane is the second most abundant greenhouse gas in the atmosphere and is an important target for emissions reductions to minimize environmental impacts. 

“The use of natural gas is already reducing carbon dioxide and traditional air pollutants in the United States and around the world, but further reduction of methane emissions greater amplifies the positive impact of natural gas,” said Chris Smith, SVP for policy, government and public affairs at Cheniere, the largest U.S. exporter of LNG. “Supporting peer-reviewed science is an important first step as we look for ways to encourage the reduction of methane emissions throughout the domestic natural gas value chain.”

This sentiment is echoed by the other members of the Collaboratory for Advancing Methane Science (CAMS), a new industry-led collaborative research consortium working to advance methane science to better understand global methane emissions and the need for additional solutions. 

Cheniere, Chevron, Equinor, ExxonMobil, and Pioneer Natural Resources initiated the effort being managed by GTI, a leading research, development and training organization that has been addressing global energy and environmental challenges for 75+ years. 

These energy companies recognize the importance of collaboration and have been continually engaged in large research studies characterizing methane emissions from natural gas operations, as well as developing approaches to reduce environmental impacts from their operations. CAMS will build on these decades of prior collaborations that have resulted in an improved understanding of emissions. 

CAMS will address methane emissions from all sectors along the entire natural gas value chain, from production to end use. Working together with scientific experts and academic institutions, CAMS will develop rigorous technical information to identify opportunities for emissions reduction and to support the development of sound environmental policies and regulations.

Member companies will prioritize and fund research with the assistance of an independent scientific advisory board (SAB), comprised of independent leaders in relevant research fields. The SAB will provide input to identify priority areas of research and provide feedback on plans to help ensure high-quality research projects.

Once the factual data is developed, effectively communicating findings to program stakeholders and the general public is a primary focus. Results will be independently published by the research project team in peer-reviewed journals to provide scientifically rigorous information to operators, government agencies, academia, industry organizations, and other stakeholders to advance methane emissions research.

These research efforts will complement recent methane emissions studies sponsored by government agencies and academia, and build on lessons learned from that body of work. New tools and technologies to better detect leaks and characterize emissions will be evaluated, and practical solutions for emissions reduction will be identified. 

Individual research projects, managed by GTI, will focus on detection, measurement, and quantification of methane emissions with the goal of finding opportunities for reduction. The first two topics on the docket are aerial-directed LDAR and harmonization of past top-down studies. 

A two-phase study on aerial-directed LDAR will identify technology solutions that potentially are more cost effective than current EPA and other government-approved ground-based optical gas imaging (OGI) technologies for LDAR application. Phase 1 will review the objectives, findings, and recommendations of studies from other research organizations evaluating new methane detection technologies for LDAR to identify scientific gaps. If it is determined certain parameters were not considered in the evaluations, additional field testing will be performed. The second phase would be a field study at operational oil and gas facilities and analysis of the collected data to compare to approved OGI techniques. 

The objective of the harmonization study is to carry out a comprehensive re-analysis of past top-down studies based on recent findings from a RPSEA methane reconciliation study that highlights the importance of temporal and spatial variabilities of methane emissions in active basins. Other research area topics can be found on the CAMS website at methanecollaboratory.com.

 “The natural gas and oil industry has a long-standing commitment to understanding and continuously improving its environmental performance based upon scientific knowledge, and this is an exciting extension of those efforts,” notes Kristine Wiley, the R&D director at GTI, who is managing the program. “We are always looking for additional companies who share a commitment to advancing methane science and would like to join us.”

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