Methane emissions in the United States have been plunging in recent years even as natural gas production has soared.

In fact, overall U.S. natural gas production grew 50 percent in the period from 1990 to 2015, largely as a consequence of the shale revolution.

Over that same period, meanwhile, total methane emissions from the natural gas industry fell 16.3 percent.

Taken together, those facts are astounding. So it’s worth reminding folks these developments occurred without prescriptive federal regulations to drive them.

It’s also worth asking just what accounts for the dramatic drop in emissions despite surging natural gas production.

The Environmental Protection Agency largely attributes the decline “to a decrease in emissions from transmission, storage, and distribution.” EPA explains:

The decrease in transmission and storage emissions is largely due to reduced compressor station emissions (including emissions from compressors and fugitives). The decrease in distribution emissions is largely attributed to increased use of plastic piping, which has lower emissions than other pipe materials, and station upgrades at metering and regulating stations.

Let me translate this jargon: Such progress doesn’t just happen on its own. It’s the result of our industry actively striving to improve systems and processes. We consistently get more efficient at producing, processing, and transporting natural gas. And those improvements substantially cut down on leaks and emissions.

After all, as American Petroleum Institute official Howard Feldman testified recently on Capitol Hill, our industry relentlessly innovates and improves because we are “incentivized to safely recover and capture methane as it is the primary component of natural gas” – i.e. we want to sell it to customers, not let it drift away.

The natural gas story in America is an exciting one. Natural gas is bolstering the economy, supporting a manufacturing revival, and advancing America’s environmental progress. Let’s ensure that it continues.


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