New Mexico’s Department of Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources (DEMNR) announced methane emissions from oil and natural gas production decreased by 50 percent year over year from 2016 to 2017, despite sustained high levels of oil and gas production in the state.
DEMNR Secretary Ken McQueen credited advances in technology and changes in the way wells are drilled for the decline in emissions.
McQueen told a panel of state lawmakers in early November the DEMNR documented 60,000 active wells providing data each month and found operators vented and flared less methane than ever before. According to DEMNR data, operators flared or vented the equivalent of just 1 percent of New Mexico’s total natural gas production.
Unsurprised by the Data
Tim Benson, a policy analyst with The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, says New Mexico’s findings reflect a nationwide trend.
“It isn’t surprising methane emissions are steeply dropping in New Mexico, because they are steeply dropping everywhere else around the United States as well, even with a substantial increase in fossil fuel production,” Benson said. “Methane leaks are decreasing despite this production increase, not because of regulations but because reducing natural gas losses is just good business.”
Gary Stone, vice president of engineering at Five States Energy Capital, says reducing natural gas losses is a profitable activity.
“Contrary to the beliefs and ravings of misguided leftist environmentalists, the U.S. oil industry thrives on efficiency,” Stone said. “When older well equipment emits methane, it means there is less natural gas to sell.
“Improvements in drilling and production equipment mean more profits for the producer,” said Stone. “As more of our producing fields coexist with urban development, good environmental stewardship and good business practices are simply a good idea.”
Confident Current Levels Are Safe
Benson says current methane levels and emission rates pose no threat to human health or the environment, so, contrary to what some environmental activists argue, there is no need for the government to mandate tighter methane emission limits on oil and natural gas operators.
“The available science simply does not show methane emissions at current levels are a threat to public health or the environment,” said Benson. “Since regulations should only be based on the best available scientific literature, not on the calumnies and hysterics of anti-energy activists on the radical fringe, there is no current justification for tightening methane emission restrictions.
“Stricter or duplicative regulations, like those imposed by former President Barack Obama at the end of his time in office, result in higher costs for operators, and ultimately consumers, and there is no reason for thinking they will improve human health or the environment,” Benson said.
Chris Talgo ([email protected]) is a marketing coordinator for The Heartland Institute.