Environmental News

EPA Annual Report: Oil And Gas Industry Biggest Methane Emitters


This month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report, Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. The report is an emissions inventory that looks at U.S. anthropogenic sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as its carbon (CO2) sinks since 1990.

A 9 percent drop in GHG emissions since 2005 was reported, but there was an increase of 1 percent in 2014 from 2013 levels due to additional fuel use during the winter. Power plants were found to be the biggest emitters of CO2 emissions and are responsible for 30 percent of total U.S. GHG emissions. The transportation sector came in a close second at 26 percent. The most significant was the discovery that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector were underestimated in previous EPA reports.

Methane is one of the seven key GHGs that the EPA includes in the inventory. Although it has a shorter half-life in the atmosphere than CO2, methane is 25 times better at trapping heat and significantly impacts climate change. Human sources of methane include natural gas production, animal agriculture, coal mining, wastewater treatment and other activities.

The previous 2015 GHG emissions inventory reported that the oil and gas sectors were the second largest anthropogenic source of methane, with animal agriculture as the largest source at 25.9 percent of total methane emissions. The new GHG emissions inventory now places that percentage at 22.5 percent.

According to The Washington Post the EPA is updating previous estimates based on better information and the new numbers show that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are up – even though the industry claims that their emission numbers are declining. The Washington Post reported a 4 percent increase.

the new data show that methane emissions are substantially higher than we previously understood.

The vice president of regulatory and economic policy for the American Petroleum Institute, Kyle Isakower, told The Washington Post that the EPA, “made a significant modification to the inventory estimates, and we believe that it is seriously flawed.” Think Progress reported that the natural gas production increased by 5 percent in 2015. The increase in production came from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Oklahoma and North Dakota which canceled out declines in other areas of the country.

EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, wrote in a blog that EPA would begin “cutting methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.” She also acknowledged, ahead of the recently released GHG emissions inventory, “the new data show that methane emissions are substantially higher than we previously understood.”

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