RMI Joins Major Oil and Gas Companies to Support Methane Monitoring

At Rocky Mountain Institute, it is not often that we agree with major players in the oil and gas industry, including BP, Equinor, Exxon, and Shell. However, today we must forcefully support the industry in condemning the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to end methane emissions monitoring. Instead of this disastrous action, we urge the administration to follow the industry’s explicit guidance to continue methane monitoring programs for existing and new operations in upstream, midstream, and downstream.

EPA’s decision is counter to all logic, as methane monitoring and abatement is essential for gas to have any role in the energy system of the future. While methane produces less CO2 per unit of energy when burned than coal, when released directly into the atmosphere it is a very powerful greenhouse gas. According to EPA, methane has 28-36x the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year timeframe and has an even more intense effect on shorter timelines.

Given the urgency of the climate crisis, it is absolutely essential that methane emissions are rapidly reduced. If leakage is not addressed, this destroys the theory that natural gas may serve as a bridge fuel to the clean energy system of the future. Most serious industry players agree that regulation here is required. In fact, member companies of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative set methane emissions intensity goals to below 0.25% in 2018, with Shell setting an even more strict methane intensity target to below 0.2% by 2025.

The administration claims that this EPA decision has been made because smaller producers can’t afford methane monitoring, putting them at a disadvantage in relation to the large international oil companies. Quite simply, there is no room in the industry for dirty operators, period.

Affordable technologies to detect methane emissions—including basic optical gas imaging cameras—are readily available in the marketplace. If producers choose not to employ these technologies they should not be in business. The role of regulations is to set the bar for performance at a level that everyone rises to, not to be the lowest common denominator that reinforces an unacceptable status quo.

While we may disagree with industry players on how long gas will play a role in our energy system, it is clear that there is no role for gas extraction that leaks methane into our atmosphere. Such leakage in the system completely undermines the idea of gas as a relatively clean source of energy and cannot be allowed if the industry is to continue relying on this fuel.

BP, Equinor, Exxon and Shell recognize that the future of their business fundamentally relies on eliminating methane emissions from oil and gas production, with the bar set by ambitious regulation. We join the industry in strongly condemning the EPA decision today and urge the administration to reconsider a position that so clearly undermines the interests of the businesses they claim to properly regulate.