DENVER – Gas and oil operations in Colorado are drilling down for the valuable fossil fuels found under the soil, but a growing number of companies are making sure that no product is wasted in the process.
A new report released by the Environmental Defense Fund highlights the growth of technology that enables companies to capture and use methane gas, a common emission of natural gas development.
Scott Prestidge is energy industry manager at Metro Denver, an economic development corporation. He said Colorado is in an ideal position.
“Colorado is on the leading edge, and this methane mitigation industry is going to be an important part of the equation,” he said. “We have an important opportunity to demonstrate how to do this in the right way.”
Earlier this year, Colorado adopted the nation’s first air pollution rules that require gas and oil companies to control emissions of methane and other smog-forming volatile organic compounds. The report suggests similar rules across the country would create jobs nationwide.
Colorado has the third-most methane mitigation businesses in the country, with 19 companies having a total of 41 locations in the state. The report says methane mitigation saves an estimated $1.8 billion in potentially wasted product every year.
Marcy Lowe is president of Datu Research, the company that gathered information for the Environmental Defense Fund report. She said that some methane leaks happen by accident, and others are the “cost of doing business.”
“Some of them are not intentional, they’re just leaks out of the system; and others are vented on purpose, really for convenience sake and because there hasn’t been a cost-effective way to capture it,” Lowe said. “But these technologies make it cost-effective to capture that methane and sell it to a customer.”
Prestidge says methane mitigation is a key component in 21st-century gas and oil drilling.
“This is not your father’s oil and gas industry, and there are more and more opportunities to utilize clean technologies and convert emissions into dollars,” Prestidge says. “It’s the right thing for our environment and the right thing for Colorado’s economy.”
Nearly 30,000 people work in Colorado’s oil and gas fields. The state’s rules prevent the release of nearly 200,000 tons of methane and volatile organic compounds each year. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates gas and oil operations emit almost 8 million metric tons of methane per year, which contributes to climate pollution.