Despite Production Growth, Methane Emissions Drop In All U.S. Producing Basins
It is an opportune time to discuss America’s leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In late November, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment, Manufacturing and Critical Materials held a hearing titled “America Leads the Way: Our History as the Global Leader at Reducing Emissions.” Around the same time, diplomats, state leaders, advocates, activists, the private sector and researchers convened in Dubai to discuss global energy and climate policy, including methane emissions management, at the 28th U.N. Conference of the Parties, or COP28.
Meanwhile, back in the United States in early December, President Biden built on his administration’s aggressive climate policy with the release of several methane rules targeting the oil and natural gas industry, including EPA’s controversial proposed methane rule.
With methane management front and center, it is important to consider America’s leading oil and natural gas producers’ success at reducing total methane volumes in each major producing basin during the last five years at a time in which they also achieved record production.
The Independent Petroleum Association of America’s Energy in Depth did a deep dive, and data from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program shows that, between 2018 and 2022, total methane emissions volumes in each of the country’s top oil and natural gas producing basins plummeted across the board.
The largest decrease in total volume of emissions occurred in the Anadarko Basin, located in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas. The Arkoma Basin was responsible for the largest percentage decrease in methane emissions, slashing emissions of the greenhouse gas by an impressive 77% during the past half-decade.
Notably, operators were able to reduce absolute methane emissions while increasing our country’s production to record levels. Following the economic downturn associated with the Covid-19 pandemic, companies responded quickly and responsibly to the sudden supply and demand shifts that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022. By the second half of the year, top producing basins such as the Permian were hitting record oil and gas production volumes; and importantly, doing so without a corresponding increase in methane emissions.
Voluntary measures such as The Environmental Partnership, an initiative representing nearly 70% of U.S. onshore oil and gas operations, are crucial to driving methane reductions across the supply chain. The most recent Environmental Partnership annual report details how companies cut flaring nearly in half in 2021 and followed that milestone in 2022 by achieving another 14% reduction in total flare volumes and a 2.4% reduction in flare intensity from the previous year. In 2021 and 2022, U.S. oil and gas production grew by 5.6% and 4.0%, respectively.
The bottom line demonstrates it is possible to have energy security and reduce emissions—a fact the U.S. oil and natural gas industry continues to demonstrate.
Editor’s Note: Methane emissions in the Arkoma Basin fell by 77% in the Arkoma Basin from 2018 through 2022. Although that drop was the most drastic among top U.S. oil and gas basins, a fuller picture shows that methane emissions fell throughout the country during the same period. Read all about it in IPAA's monthly column in the December AOGR e-Edition.
JEFF ESHELMAN is president and chief executive officer of the Independent Petroleum Association of America and the founder/executive vice president of Energy in Depth. Along with more than two decades at IPAA, he previously worked at the Defense Logistics Agency, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy and three public affairs firms.