Monday, January 30, 2023

EDF: Conventional Gas Wells In The Allegheny National Forest Leaked Over 6 Billion Cubic Feet Of Natural Gas In 2019; Conventional Operators Seek To Block Methane Limits

On January 26, the
Environmental Defense Fund and Taxpayers for Common Sense released a new economic analysis which found oil and gas companies operating on U.S. public and tribal lands wasted over $500 million worth of natural gas in 2019— 157 billion cubic feet— the most recent year of data available that is reflective of the industry.

This waste occurs when gas is either flared, vented or leaked from oil and gas wells and infrastructure.

The analysis includes thousands of conventional natural gas wells drilled in the Allegheny National Forest that EDF's estimates released 6.06 billion cubic feet of natural gas in 2019 causing the loss of an estimated $1.16 million in federal royalties to state taxpayers.

The Allegheny National Forest covers over 514,000 acres in Warren, McKean, Forest and Elk counties.

Pennsylvania was fifth in the top six states for loss of natural gas and royalty income from natural gas wells drilled on federal lands. The others included, in order, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Pennsylvania and Colorado.

“We can’t continue to allow half a billion dollars’ worth of taxpayer-owned resources to go to waste every year,” said Jon Goldstein, Sr. Director of Regulatory & Legislative Affairs at EDF. “The Biden administration has a clear opportunity to step up with strong rules that stop waste and pollution from practices like routine flaring to protect the public interest. These resources should benefit priorities like education and infrastructure, not be released into the atmosphere to undermine our climate and health.”

“This new reporting further confirms that hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of natural gas is being lost each year,” said Taxpayers for Common Sense Vice President Autumn Hanna. “Not only is this an unnecessary waste of a valuable natural resource, allowing drillers to release and burn off natural gas royalty-free in nonemergency situations, instead of capturing and selling it, is a blatant giveaway to the industry. It is time for the administration to stop this waste.”

Multiple analyses have shown that reducing methane waste is a critical solution for supporting both energy and climate security. 

A recent S&P report found that it’s currently economical across 6 key global oil and gas producing regions – including North America – to capture and commercialize 70% of lost methane and flared gas. 

Additionally, EDF analysis revealed that reducing waste of natural gas from leaks and flaring in the U.S. could provide over half of the 50 BCM/yr of natural gas the Biden administration has pledged to European allies.

Click Here for a copy of the new analysis.

Conventional Operators Try To Block Methane Limits

On December 6, Marcellus Drilling News reported three Pennsylvania  industry groups representing the conventional oil and gas industry filed a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court December 5 in an attempt to block implementation of DEP’s final regulations containing VOC/methane limits regulation on conventional oil and gas facilities.  Read more here.

Two sets of final regulations limiting VOC/methane emissions from conventional and separately unconventional oil and gas facilities were formally published in the December 10 PA Bulletin and became effective.

The lawsuit alleges DEP and the Environmental Quality Board illegally promulgated the regulation under the emergency provisions of the state Commonwealth Document Law and did not comply with Act 52 of 2016 which requires the agencies to adopt separate and independent rulemakings setting requirements for conventional oil and gas operations.

The groups included the PA Independent Oil and Gas Association, PA Independent Petroleum Producers and the PA Grade Crude Oil Coalition Read more here.

Cambria Storage Facility Venting

Other large releases of natural gas have been occurring in Pennsylvania from the natural gas infrastructure built up around the gas industry in the state.

From November 6 to 20, the Equitrans Rager Mountain Natural Gas Storage Area in Cambria County suffered an uncontrolled release of an estimated 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas that was so big it could be monitored from space.  Read more here.

As a result of the leak, DEP ordered a “top-to-bottom” review of how it regulates underground natural gas storage facility which primarily use played out conventional natural gas formations to store gas.  Read more here.

Shell Petrochemical Plant Flaring

The new Shell petrochemical plant in Beaver County was issued a notice of violation in December for exceeding its 12-month total emission limitations of volatile organic compounds during the commissioning of the facility.  Read more here.

The malfunctions caused the Shell plant to activate its natural gas flaring system that lit up the sky in an orange glow, caught on video by Carnegie Mellon’s Project Breathe. The glow was reminiscent of Pittsburgh’s industrial past. Read more here.

For more information on natural gas leak reduction, visit DEP’s Reducing Methane In PA webpage.

(Photo: Pattern of conventional oil and gas well pads in the Allegheny National Forest from Google Earth.)

Related Articles - Leaking Natural Gas:

-- Marcellus Drilling News: 3 Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Groups File Lawsuit To Block Rule Limiting VOC/Methane Emissions From Conventional Oil & Gas Facilities  [PaEN]

-- DEP Has Ordered A ‘Top To Bottom Review’ Of How It Regulates Underground Natural Gas Storage Areas As A Result Of The Equitrans Gas Leak In Cambria County In Nov.  [PaEN]

-- DEP Issues Orders To Equitrans To Plug Additional Wells At Cambria County Underground Natural Gas Storage Facility, Bring Other Wells Up To Current Casing Standards And Take Other Actions  [PaEN]

--  EDF Blog: What A Catastrophic Natural Gas Leak In Pennsylvania Means For Our Climate And Health [PaEN]

-- DEP Issues Notice Of Violation To Shell Petrochemical Plant In Beaver County For Air Quality Violations In Sept. - Oct.  [PaEN]

-- Dramatic Video From Carnegie Mellon’s Project Breathe Shows Shell Ethane Plant In Beaver County Flaring Natural Gas Due To Malfunction  [PaEN]

--  EDF Analysis Finds PA Oil & Gas Methane Emissions Are Double Previous Estimate  [PaEN]

-- Study: Industry Data Shows Hazardous Air Pollutants Are ‘Ubiquitous’ In The Natural Gas Transmission System; More Justification For Robust Leak Prevention Programs  [PaEN]

-- Guest Essay: PA's Low-Producing Conventional Oil & Gas Wells Are Leaking Too Much Methane, The Industry Needs To Take Care Of Its Own Trash  [PaEN]

PA DEP Public Notice Dashboards:

-- Pennsylvania Oil & Gas Weekly Compliance Dashboard - Jan. 21 to 27  [PaEN] 

-- PA Oil & Gas Industrial Facilities: Permit Notices/Opportunities To Comment - Jan. 28  [PaEN] 

PA Oil & Gas Industry Compliance Reports:

-- DEP Report Finds: Conventional Oil & Gas Drillers Routinely Abandon Wells; Fail To Report How Millions Of Gallons Of Waste Is Disposed; And Non-Compliance Is An ‘Acceptable Norm’  [PaEN]

-- DEP 2021 Oil & Gas Program Annual Report Shows Conventional Oil & Gas Operators Received A Record 610 Notices Of Violation For Abandoning Wells Without Plugging Them  [PaEN]

-- PA Oil & Gas Industry Has Record Year: Cost, Criminal Convictions Up; $3.1 Million In Penalties Collected; Record Number Of Violations Issued; Major Compliance Issues Uncovered; Evidence Of Health Impacts Mounts  [PaEN]

Related Articles:

-- Natural Gas Industry, Senate Republicans Launch Effort To Unleash The Industry, Reduce Regulation, Call For Automatic Approval Of Permits, Limit Public Comments  [PaEN] 

-- House Republicans Name Advocate For Conventional Oil & Gas Industry Rep. Martin Causer Chair Of House Environmental Committee  [PaEN]

-- DEP Releases Bid Solicitation To Plug 19 Abandoned Conventional Gas Wells In Forest County All At Taxpayer Expense  [PaEN]

-- DEP Blog: Plugging PA’s Abandoned Conventional Oil And Gas Wells  [PaEN]

[Posted: January 30, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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