TitleSix oil companies agree to cut methane leaks
BodySix global energy companies — but not the mega U.S.-based ones like ExxonMobil and Chevron — Tuesday agreed to work with more than a dozen countries to reduce their emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Announced at the U.N. Climate Summit as part of industry efforts to address global warming, the partnership includes Norway's Statoil, Britain's BG Group, Italy's ENI, Mexico's state-owned Pemex, Thailand's PTT and Houston-based Southwestern Energy. "We see this effort as starting small and growing over time," says Nathaniel Keohane, a former Obama administration energy adviser and now vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, a non-profit group that's leading the initiative on behalf of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition. He says EDF has discussed it with major U.S. oil and natural gas companies but "not every company is ready to do this right away." Keohane says emissions of methane can be 84 times as potent as carbon dioxide over a 20-year period but have not been an industry focus until recently. He says a large proportion of these emissions come from a small number of sources so fixing them can make a real difference. Methane can leak into the atmosphere during the production or transmission of oil and natural gas. The six companies have agreed to identify uncontrolled sources of methane, take steps to fix them such as replacing leaky valves or other equipment and publicly report their experiences. They're not committing to specific reduction targets. "We've already done a lot of this stuff," Mark Boling, president of Southwestern Energy, told reporters Tuesday. He said his company, the fourth largest U.S. natural gas producer, has reduced 37 billion cubic feet of methane gas since 2007. He said it's done so largely by changing how fluids and gas are discharged after drilling is complete. "This adds an international flavor to our work," Boling said, noting it will disclose its data and share its experiences. Joining the United States in the "Oil and Gas Methane Partnership" are Canada, Colombia, France, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, Russia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. Other participants include the Natural Resources Defense Fund, an environmental group, and the World Bank, a U.N. financial institution. On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced a separate methane-reduction effort. Via the World Bank, he said the U.S. government will spend $15 million on a "carbon auction facility" that will encourage large livestock operations, landfills and waste treatment facilities to reduce emissions by paying them for each ton of methane avoided. The U.S. government doesn't directly regulate methane, but the Environmental Protection Agency has said it will decide in coming months to what extent it will do so in natural gas operations.
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