Comparing Policies to Reduce Methane Emissions in the Natural Gas Sector
We compare several polices aimed at reducing methane emissions from the natural gas sector, which threaten to erode the advantages that gas holds over coal in terms of climate change.
Figure 1. Leakage Rates (%) from Natural Gas Systems in the United States, 1990-2014
Note: Leakage rate is a ratio in which the numerator includes methane emissions from natural gas systems (Table 3-48 of EPA 2016) and the denominator includes methane production (gross withdrawals from natural gas and shale gas wells, from EIA 2016, multiplied by an assumed 0.83 methane content). Some of the methane emissions from natural gas systems are composed of natural gas that originates from oil or coalbed wells, which together were responsible for about 23 percent of natural gas withdrawals in 2014, meaning that our estimated leakage rates may be biased upward. In contrast, estimates of leakage rates from the natural gas sector that include natural gas withdrawals from the oil and coal sector are biased downward if they do not also include methane emissions from the oil and coal sector in the numerator. We do not consider how imports and exports affect these numbers.
Figure 3. Methane Emissions (MMTCO2E), as Estimated by EA's Greenhouse Gas Inventory by Natural Gas Subsector
Figure 4. National Aggregate Marginal Abatement Cost Curve for Oil and Natural Gas Subsectors
Figure 5. National Marginal Abatement Cost Curve for Methane Abatement Technologies for Oil and Natural Gas Sector
- We describe a suite of methane abatement policies and compare them using three criteria: administrative costs, economic efficiency, and environmental effectiveness.
- Leak detection and repair programs that utilize large-scale imaging technologies are particularly effective at identifying a wide range of methane emissions and perform well in terms of economic efficiency.
- Tradable performance standards score quite highly in terms of economic efficiency and therefore deserve further consideration.
- We introduce a tax with assumed default and updatable leakage rates, which provides incentives to improve reporting of methane emissions and performs well in terms of economic efficiency.
Resources Radio — Aug 29, 2023
How Leaky is the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry?, with Eric Kort
Eric Kort discusses methane emissions from the US oil and gas sector at onshore and offshore extraction sites, alongside efforts to reduce these emissions.
Journal Article — Jun 20, 2023
Environmental Risks and Opportunities of Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells in the United States
To quantify environmental risks and opportunities of well plugging at the national level, this team analyzes data on almost 82,000 documented orphaned wells across the United States.
Media Highlight — May 3, 2023
E&E News: "Hundreds of Gas Plants Could Escape EPA Climate Rules"
RFF Senior Fellow Dallas Burtraw shares his predictions on how an upcoming EPA power plant rule proposal may handle natural gas-fired power plants.