By Matthew Todd
In addition to its status as one of the nation’s top energy-producing states, North Dakota can claim another important distinction: top reducer of carbon emissions. Based on federal data, reports show “North Dakota outpaced all other states in cutting its carbon intensity despite a five-fold increase in oil and natural gas production between 2009 and 2016.”
State regulators and operators are working together to build on that progress and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions – including emissions of methane.
A groundbreaking new industry initiative is part of the solution. Launched one year ago with 26 companies, The Environmental Partnership (the partnership) now includes almost 70 nationwide member companies focused on concrete actions to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint.
Individual companies have their own New industry initiative targets methane emissions By Matthew Todd successful methane reduction initiatives – contributing to a 14 percent reduction in methane from industry operations from 1990 to 2017, even as production has soared.
But the partnership brings those competing companies of all sizes together to pool knowledge and jointly tackle methane emissions.
The effort’s first progress report, released in July, tracks significant progress. In the partnership’s first year, participating companies conducted more than 156,000 site surveys and discovered leaks in just 0.16 percent of components – a small fraction of EPA’s estimated 1.4 percent leak occurrence rate. Within 60 days, 99 percent of those leaks were repaired. The partnership’s participating companies have made a concerted effort to eliminate aging equipment like highbleed pneumatic controllers – replacing, retrofitting, or removing more than 30,000 of these devices – 3,000 in 2018 alone. Information-sharing and collaboration represent a key pillar of the initiative. The partnership has held workshops in major producing regions across the country – including the Texas Permian, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, and Colorado – bringing together operators, regulators, equipment manufacturers, and university researchers to identify solutions and share best practices.
A July workshop in the Bakken drew more than 75 attendees representing over 20 different organizations – including Lime Rock Resources, the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, and the North Dakota Petroleum Council.
Participants heard in-depth presentations from Bakken operators on the optimal usage of equipment, such as high-volume combustors, tank vents and thief hatches, as well as the ongoing challenges local operators face. Given the Bakken region’s large temperature swings during the year, there was added emphasis to ensure proper equipment operation to minimize emissions during all seasons.
The workshop also included updates from the North Dakota Petroleum Council on regional production and emissions trends, as well as regulatory developments and challenges. The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality briefed participants on efforts to monitor and improve air quality, noting the importance of state and federal regulators working closely with industry to make the most meaningful impacts.
That kind of coordinated effort is at the heart of The Environmental Partnership.
At its outset, The Environmental Partnership is already a model for leading efforts to further reduce methane emissions from natural gas and oil operations, continuously creating pathways for new technologies and techniques to address environmental challenges – while providing the energy vital to every American family and business, now and for decades to come.by