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.

CC0 Public Domain/pxhere.com

What Does the US Rig Count Mean for the Oil and Gas Industry?

At noon on Friday, the last day of the work week, Baker Hughes will continue a tradition began in 1944 when they release their weekly US rig count. Week after week, month after month, year after year, this metric is used by journalists, financial experts, and academics as the pulse of the domestic oil and gas industry. 

But what does the Baker Hughes rig count truly measure, and what do its rise and fall mean for the industry at large?

The Baker Hughes Rotary Rig Count

For 75 years, Baker Hughes, an oilfield products and services company owned by GE, has published a weekly count of the nation’s active rotary rigs. 

A rotary rig is the bit of machinery that “rotates the drill pipe from [the surface] to drill a new well (or sidetracking an existing one) to explore for, develop and produce oil or natural gas.” Hughes doesn’t take into account rigs with low production in this number, but the company will include specific non-rotary rigs in the US rig count under certain circumstances.

In other words, Baker Hughes believes the active rig count to be an accurate measurement of the future demand for oilfield products and services. In a very real sense, the US rig count is used by Baker Hughes to indicate how profitable their company (and other oilfield services companies) may be in the future.

Academics also use Baker Hughes’ count as a means to study long-term fluctuations in the industry.

How Important Is the Rig Count, Really?

In today’s oil and gas sector it would be easy to make the mistake of discounting the importance of the US rig count. Advancements in technology and improvements in the efficiency of extraction, for example, have created an industry that can flourish even when rig counts fall. As such, it has become impossible to judge the overall health of the domestic oil and gas industry using the Baker Hughes rig count alone.

In spite of the changes to the oil and gas industry, the US rig count remains a vital measurement, because it measures physical investment. Unlike other metrics which measure potential, the Baker Hughes count represents the genuine faith that investors have in oil and gas.

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.