Oil and gas producers measure their methane emissions but don't want to report them to the EPA

According to an article posted by the New York Times, “some of the nation's largest oil and gas producers have asked to delay or pare down regulations that would require them to submit annual greenhouse gas emissions reports to U.S. EPA.”

It takes a lot to shock me these days, but this statement takes the cake. First of all, the proposed regulations would not require oil and gas companies to actually reduce their emissions. No, it would only require them to measure them.

Second, many if not most of these companies already claim to measure their emissions. For example, Noble Energy is quoted in the article as saying that “Practical compliance in two months will be impossible.” Yet on its website, Noble Energy claims that it conducted its first emissions inventory in 2006, performs direct and indirect emissions inventories annually, and already captures emissions through green completions and other controls. These emissions reports are even posted on Noble’s website.

I don’t mean to pick on Noble; a sampling of other companies claiming to measure their emissions includes Devon, Anadarko, ExxonMobil, Shell, Encana…..well you get the point.

In the same New York Times report, the American Petroleum Institute, an industry association, complains that "Exploration and production facilities have not had the same regulatory history” as other industries. I agree. For years the oil and gas exploration and production sector has been exempt from laws with which other industries must comply. It is time it is held to the same standards as other industries.

The EPA has already given the oil and gas exploration and production sector a year’s delay beyond the date by which most other industries have to monitor and report their greenhouse gas emissions.  Do these companies need even more time?  What’s wrong with requiring oil and gas to measure its emissions – and maybe discover that it can make money preventing them in the first place. 

Yes, you heard me right. One reason companies should want to measure these emissions is that they will learn how much money they can make by capturing them and selling them. Dozens of companies already participate voluntarily in U.S. EPA’s Natural Gas Star program, where they have committed to adopt “cost-effective technologies and practices to reduce emissions of methane.” Even the API endorses EPA’s Natural Gas Star program to help API members “further improve operating efficiency,” among other things.

From the Natural Gas Star program and other data, there is substantial evidence to prove that oil and gas producers can make money by reducing natural gas emissions and selling the methane that is not lost to the atmosphere. EPA reports that in 2008 companies made more than $800 million by capturing these emissions.

So, in summary, companies say they measure and capture emissions, and they make money doing it, yet they are opposing a rule that requires them to report these emission numbers to the EPA.  I call on all Natural Gas Star partners to support this rule. If not, perhaps they don't belong in the Natural Gas Star program.