WASHINGTON, D.C. – Colorado’s oil and gas industry is generally supportive of the state’s comprehensive methane emissions regulations and views them as a cost-effective step toward reducing the venting, flaring and leaking of natural gas from industrial drilling operations, a study released Friday shows.
The study, conducted by Keating Research Inc. on behalf of the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, asked oil and gas representatives to discuss the impact of Colorado’s Regulation 7 on their operations. The center represents the interests of companies in the methane mitigation industry, such as those conducting leak detections and repairs.
Patrick Von Bargen, executive director of the center, said the first-of-its-kind study examined the impact of methane emissions regulations on the oil and gas industry.
“The reason we commissioned this Colorado report is that Colorado has the most comprehensive set of methane regulations in the country right now,” Von Bargen said. “And as we were working with industry and with policymakers, we heard a lot of anecdotal information about how it was working in Colorado.”
Von Bargen said there were no lawsuits or efforts to block the state’s regulations when they passed, and he said the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions wanted to find out why oil and gas representatives in Colorado were not vocally opposed to the methane emissions requirements.
The study was based on 10 in-depth interviews with industry representatives from large and small oil and gas companies operating within the state, as well as with service providers conducting on-site methane emissions inspections.
Among the study’s findings was that Colorado’s oil and gas industry has conducted more than 1,100 site inspections, on average, at facilities over the past year.
“When we ask representatives to tell us how many methane leaks they are finding during a typical site inspection,” the study said, “they report finding 2 to 3 methane gas leaks on average, and they find at least one methane gas leak in 9 out of 10 typical site inspections.”
Most of the study’s respondents said that of the more than 800 methane leaks they reported, most were small and easily fixable – 30 percent of the reported methane leaks were fixed on the spot, while another 66 percent were fixed within a few days.
Although 60 percent of the oil and gas representatives in the survey reported that they were paying a little more to reduce methane leaks, 70 percent of those surveyed reported that the benefits outweighed the associated costs. They also reported associated improvements to their workers’ attention to detail and safety.
Von Bargen said the study was meant to coincide with the end of the public comment period for the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed national rule to limit the venting, leaking and flaring of methane from oil and gas operations on public lands.
“The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial emitter of methane in the United States, so if you can do regulations on a national basis that will reduce this climate polluter that’s 84 times the impact of carbon dioxide, that’s a significant thing,” he said.
The BLM has not significantly updated its rule on methane emissions in 30 years. The federal agency’s newly proposed rule has modeled some of its requirements on Colorado’s Regulation 7. The public comment period on the proposed federal rule will end April 22.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Edward Graham is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.