Varodrig / Wikimedia Commons

United States Methane Emissions Aren’t as Drastic as Previously Reported

On Thursday, a new study from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) revealed that the levels of United States’ methane emissions are nowhere near as high as they were previously reported. The bombshell study casts doubt on years of attacks from anti-energy protestors and could undercut new legislation from Democrats in the US House of Representatives.

The Fight Against Methane

Anti-oil and gas activists have long used methane as one of their primary weapons in the fight against US energy output. The general claim was simple: oil and gas operations expel methane into the environment, and methane is the second biggest contributor to climate change. Take, for example, a study published in Science last June that revealed US oil and gas methane emissions were 60 percent higher than the numbers reported by the EPA.

Environmental Defense Fund Chief Scientist Steven Hamburg (and co-author of the study) proclaimed, “Scientists have uncovered a huge problem.”

No matter what your opinion of the oil and gas industry, that information sounds terrifying. Opponents of domestic energy have done little to squash that fear, too, painting a picture of an industry that pumps clouds and clouds of methane into the atmosphere with gleeful ignorance. 

Thursday’s study, however, portrays the oil and gas industry in another light entirely. 

A Groundbreaking Study

After examining methane emissions results at 20 US drilling sites for the better part of a decade, researchers at NOAA reported, “Our estimated increases in North American [methane emissions] are much smaller than estimates from some previous studies and below our detection threshold for total emissions increases …”

Put plainly, US oil and gas production has increased by 46 percent in the last decade; in roughly the same period, US methane emissions have increased “approximately 3.4 ± 1.4 % per year,” approximately 10 times lower than some previous studies

Nobody Likes Escaped Methane

Two days before the release of the NOAA report, two Democrat Representatives introduced the Methane Waste and Prevention Act of 2019, a proposal that would use federal law to compel oil and gas companies to cut methane emissions to the bone.

Never mind the fact that earlier this year, Erik Milito, a rep from the American Petroleum Institute revealed that between 1990 and 2017, natural gas production rose an astounding 50 percent. Meanwhile, methane emissions from natural gas projects dropped 14 percent. In Milito’s words, “During a period of significant production growth … methane emissions went down.”

Getting on the Same Page

In their conclusion to the report, NOAA researchers explained that it was a single incorrect mathematical assumption that led prior researchers to their inflated conclusions. It wasn’t a political ploy (like the grandstanding that comes after the publication of a report of this kind), it was a simple mistake.

The NOAA report also serves as further proof that in spite of the repeated attempts to hold up oil and gas as the nation’s biggest climate offenders, the industry itself is committed to creating a cleaner, more environmentally-friendly product year after year.

President Donald J. Trump . (Official White House Photo by D. Myles Cullen)

Trump Uses Houston Summit to Loosen the Reigns on Oil and Gas

On Wednesday, Donald Trump visited Houston, Texas, the nation’s energy capital, to continue the fight for American energy dominance. 

On a hard-charging tour of the Lone Star State, the President took the time to speak to a room filled with oil and gas professionals. In his speech, Trump reasserted his commitment to the nation’s oil and gas industry, praising their past success while paving the way for future prosperity.

Building the Infrastructure of Tomorrow

While signing the pair of executive orders, Donald Trump spoke to an enthusiastic crowd about his administrations intentions.

“My action today will cut through destructive permitting delays and denials,” explained the President, “so that you can get to work producing the energy and the infrastructure our country needs to thrive and compete and to win. All over the world, we’re winning. Our country is respected again.”

In more practical terms, Trump’s latest executive orders will set about a robust program of infrastructure-building that will focus on erecting new pipelines. In the executive order itself, Trump wrote

“To fully realize [its] economic potential … the United States needs infrastructure capable of safely and efficiently transporting these plentiful resources to end users.  Without it, energy costs will rise and the national energy market will be stifled; job growth will be hampered; and the manufacturing and geopolitical advantages of the United States will erode.”

The Ongoing Battle

Donald Trump’s latest gesture is a step in the right direction for the United States’ embattled oil and gas industry. Even as the President takes strides to relieve the regulatory and legal pressure placed on the shoulders of the country’s oil producers, forces are at work to undo Trump’s work.

At the tail end of March, US District Judge Sharon Gleason determined that Trump’s attempt to revoke a ban on drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic oceans wasn’t legal.

In spite of the President’s repeated attempts to turn the tide for American oil and gas, it seems like the nation is destined to keep taking one step forward and one step back until everyone can get on the same page.

Oil rigs moored in Cromarty Firth. Invergordon, Scotland, UK -- Berardo62/flickr.com

UK Women Speak Out About Their Role in the Oil and Gas Industry

It’s easy to see the fledgling UK oil and gas industry as a microcosm for the issues we have in the United States. In some cases, the problems facing the UK’s energy sector are more pronounced than those at home. Take, for instance, the seemingly unending number of difficulties facing fracking company Cuadrilla as they launched their first fracking well in Lancashire. The fracker saw years of protests and litigation before they were able to begin work in earnest.

Fortunately for the United Kingdom, the march of progress would not be slowed, and the oil and gas industry in the United Kingdom is finally beginning to chug along. Cuadrilla discovered “a rich reservoir of high quality and recoverable gas.” Geologists have also found fresh reserves in the UK’s North Sea, as well. 

Progress is slow, but it’s happening.

Growing Pains in the Workforce

Now, however, the UK oil and gas industry is faced with another dilemma that echoes problems encountered in the United States: they need to draft more women. At the moment, only one out of four employees in the oil and gas industry are female. That runs about equal to the US, where 25.5% of the industry are women.

While the old days of seeing women as something of an oddity in the industry are long gone, that antiquated stigma — that oil and gas is exclusively a man’s world — still hangs around the industry’s neck.

Now, however, a new book from Katy Heidenreich titled The Oil Industry’s Best Kept Secret: A book full of inspiration and advice hopes to reverse the idea that women don’t belong in the United Kingdom’s oil and gas industry.

Diversity, Progress, and Adventure

One of Heidenreich’s case studies for her book, a petroleum engineer at BP explained, “Life offshore is a different world. The platforms and FPSOs [floating production storage and offloading] are amazing feats of engineering. The camaraderie is second to none, which is important when you’re together for weeks at a time. To round it off, I get to take a helicopter to work.”

For those women searching for a career that’s anything but mundane, oil and gas may be just the ticket. Of course, attracting women to the industry is about more than merely getting females on the payroll.

Writes Heidenreich, “Women can bring different leadership skills and behaviours, but it’s not just about diversity of gender, it’s about diversity of thought – more balanced teams make better decisions.”

Scrubbing Off the Wrong Idea

When it comes right down to it, it would appear as though the UK has in its success the same problem as the United States. It’s the same thing that keeps women from vying for lucrative, rewarding professions in the UK oil and gas industry and it’s the same thing that keeps protestors lined up outside fracking sites across the United States and the United Kingdom. That problem: decades of misinformation.

It’s a daunting hill to climb, but with enough education courtesy of writers like Heidenreich and enough perseverance like the kind shown by Cuadrilla and other companies like them, the industry is bound to get there.