A new federal rule issued last week targets the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions, which experts say are a primary culprit in global warming and cost Louisiana millions in lost tax revenue, reports Louisiana Illuminator.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s new policy requires oil and gas facilities to perform comprehensive monitoring for methane leaks. It also phases in a requirement to eliminate routine flaring of natural gas that new oil wells produce and establishes standards to reduce methane releases from high-emitting sources such as pumps, storage tanks and pneumatic controllers.
Methane is the primary chemical in natural gas and, compared with carbon dioxide, it causes much more harm to the atmosphere in the short term. It traps over 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for more than 25% of the atmospheric warming the Earth experiences today, according to the United Nations.
In 2019 in Louisiana, oil and gas operators reported 5.1 billion cubic feet of methane wasted through venting and flaring, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. On a rough scale, that’s enough to provide electricity to about 121,000 homes for an entire year.
Methane detection requires expensive infrared imaging equipment or satellite imagery. It’s unclear how much more is wasted through leaky valves, poorly sealed pipe threads and orphaned wells, but researchers have found numerous methane plumes bubbling up from offshore rigs
Earlier this year, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources proposed a new state rule to prohibit routine venting and flaring of methane from production facilities. The proposed rule is still being finalized and has an “earliest effective date” of Jan. 20, 2024.