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Permian Methane Mystery Is Focus of Green Group’s New Study

By Simon Casey

(Bloomberg)The Permian Basin in Texas and New Mexico is dotted with drilling rigs, crisscrossed by pipelines and produces far more oil than any other part of the U.S. Yet its emissions of a key greenhouse gas are mostly a mystery, one that a non-profit group aims to solve.

The Environmental Defense Fund said Wednesday in a statement it’s overseeing a year-long program to monitor methane released across the Permian. The project will start measuring emissions in November using towers and mobile readings, and will begin publishing data early next year.

The energy industry is the leading industrial source of methane, which is the main component of natural gas and traps more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide. Much of that methane is escaping from pipelines, wellheads and compressor stations, and the problem has become worse as oil and gas production has boomed in the Permian.

The amount of natural gas released straight into the atmosphere — known in the industry as venting — or burned off in the Permian has tripled in the past two years, according to Rystad Energy.

Read about the Permian hotspot tracking methane leaks

The EDF is working on the study with Pennsylvania State University, the University of Wyoming, and Scientific Aviation, a company that measures emissions.

While the Trump administration has proposed a plan to end direct federal regulation of methane leaks from oil and gas facilities, some energy companies are moving the other way on the issue. Dozens of oil and gas producers have made commitments to reduce methane emissions.

Chevron Corp. Chief Executive Office Mike Wirth said last week at an event held by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, an industry group that’s pledged to reduce methane emissions, that third-party monitoring is an inevitability.

“Very soon nobody is going to be able to hide from methane leakage” because of satellites and other detection technologies, Wirth said.

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