Gas Industry Saves $126 Million Reducing GHGs

Gas Industry Saves $126 Million Reducing GHGs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Natural Gas STAR Program recently announced its annual results, showing that its industry partners reduced methane emissions from unit operations and equipment leaks by 42 billion cubic feet (Bcf) in 2001. At a gas value of $3.00 per thousand cubic feet, these gas savings are worth approximately $126 million.

The Natural Gas STAR Program is a voluntary partnership between EPA and the natural gas industry, focused on using cost-effective technologies and practices to reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that is the primary component of natural gas. The program has more than 90 partner companies across all major industry sectors---production, processing, transmission, and distribution.

Since the program's inception in 1993, Gas STAR partners have reported total methane emission reductions of 218 Bcf, worth over $650 million. These reductions are the carbon equivalent of eliminating the emissions of more than 19 million cars for one year. The Gas STAR Program surpassed its goal for 2001, which was to reduce the industry's methane emissions by 40 Bcf.

"Gas STAR continues to grow and to exceed the ambitious methane reduction goals we've set for ourselves," said Kevin Tingley, a Gas STAR Program manager. "Our success in 2001 is a testament to industry innovation and the voluntary program approach."

Methane is second only to carbon dioxide as a contributor to global warming. On a unit-by-unit basis, however, methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its global warming potential (its ability to trap heat in the atmosphere). Because of this potency, relatively small reductions in methane emissions could have significant climate benefits.

Gas STAR reduces methane emissions through market-based, voluntary activities that are both profitable for industry partners and beneficial to the environment. Partners choose among a number of best management practices (BMPs) identified by industry and EPA for minimizing equipment leaks, reducing gas releases from operations, and improving equipment efficiency. Partners implement only those BMPs that are cost effective for their particular operations, and EPA also encourages companies to identify new practices for reducing gas losses.

Greg Odegard, Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety at El Paso Energy Corporation, said, "Participation in Gas STAR helps El Paso Energy achieve our corporate goal of combining outstanding business performance with outstanding environmental performance." Odegard added that his company's participation in Gas STAR "makes perfect environmental and business sense. And the program offers unique opportunities for technology transfer within the industry."

According to EPA's latest published inventory of GHG emissions, U.S. natural gas systems emitted a total of 288 Bcf of methane in 2000. That same year, Gas STAR partners reported methane emissions reductions of 34 Bcf, meaning that the industry's methane emissions would have been almost 12% higher without the reductions achieved by Gas STAR partners.

Gas STAR is one of several voluntary EPA programs that promote profitable opportunities for reducing emissions of methane. Other programs target emissions from landfills, coal mines, and agricultural industries.