Aerial surveys detect dozens of methane ‘super-emitters’ in the Permian


An oil pump is seen in operation in the Permian Basin near Midland, Texas, U.S., May 3, 2017. Picture taken May 3, 2017. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder//File Photo

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WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Reuters) – About 30 oil and gas facilities in the Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico have been releasing large amounts of methane for three years, emitting the climate pollution equivalent of half a million cars, according to a report on Monday. .

The facilities, which include well pads, pipelines, compressor stations and processing facilities, have been observed to “persistently” emit large volumes of methane during the three years of aerial surveys carried out by the Environmental Defense Fund and the Carbon Mapper research group.

These so-called “super-emitters,” located in America’s most productive oilfield, represent just 0.001% of the Permian Basin’s oil and gas infrastructure, but emit about 100,000 tons of methane per year.

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That means fixing these leaks offers companies an immediate opportunity to help meet U.S. and international methane reduction goals and save an estimated $26 million in leaked natural gas, the report said.

“The scale of emissions from a handful of methane sources in one of the world’s major oil and gas producing regions illustrates the possibility of making significant near-term progress toward state-declared methane reduction targets. United States, other countries and companies around the world,” said Riley Duren, CEO of Carbon Mapper and a researcher at the University of Arizona.

The report shows that these large sources of emissions affect a wide range of oil and gas infrastructure and operators in the Permian Basin.

Methane is the second cause of climate change after carbon dioxide. Its high heat-trapping potential and relatively short atmospheric lifetime mean that reducing its emissions can have an outsized impact on the trajectory of the global climate.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency last year proposed the first federal regulation targeting methane emissions from existing oil and gas facilities. It is collecting public comments until the end of January and will present an additional proposal this spring outlining measures for routine flaring and smaller wells.

The United States has also signed a Global Voluntary Commitment on Methane with about 100 countries, agreeing to reduce methane 30% below 2020 levels in eight years.

New Mexico, home to part of the Permian Basin, is finalizing its own rules in March that require companies to regularly monitor processing and production facilities.

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Reporting by Valérie Volcovici; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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