Total promotes regulation of methane emissions in the US
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas: its emissions are responsible for up to one-quarter of the estimated current earth global warming and its Global Warming Potential (impact on warming per unit of mass) is at least 25 times greater than that of carbon dioxide over 100 years.
Rapid reductions in methane emissions are therefore vital in addressing the challenges of climate change.
The American Environment Protection Agency has proposed to rescind the regulation of methane emissions in the O&G sector.
Total has formally filed a comment to oppose this proposed modification of regulation as we believe methane regulations are a useful tool to limit greenhouse gas emissions in order to mitigate the risks associated with global climate change.
What is at stake?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed to rescind some of the Obama administration's “New Sources Performance Standards” (NSPS) regulating oil and gas (O&G) methane emissions. The Obama administration’s methane strategy was to reduce methane emissions by expanding regulations in order to include methane as a “regulated pollutant”. This classification of methane compels EPA under the Clean Air Act to develop guidelines for states to regulate existing sources and in particular to :
• set methane emissions limits from a variety of sources in the O&G sector;
• require periodic methane leak detection and repair campaigns at new and modified facilities;
• include additional sources that were not previously covered (e.g., hydraulically fractured oil wells, pneumatic devices at well sites and gas processing plants; and compressors and pneumatic controllers at transmission and storage facilities).
With the 2019 rollback, methane would be removed as a “regulated pollutant” which would imply less stringent regulation of methane emissions from the O&G sector. The rollback would also exempt facilities in the transmission and storage segment from methane emission federal standards. In doing so, the EPA proposed a narrower interpretation of its legal authority to regulate air pollution from the O&G industry.
According to the agency, this proposal aims to eliminate redundant regulations and save the industry compliance costs, while maintaining appropriate health and safety regulations with methane being regulated as a "Volatile Organic Content". The NGO Environmental Defense Fund estimates that if EPA is successful in adopting its rollback, it would result in an additional 5 million metric tons of preventable methane pollution annually.
“We are publicly expressing our opposition to this rollback, as we believe that regulating directly methane emissions is a more efficient means of mitigating the risks associated with climate change, than only relying on a "Volatile Organic Content" approach” declared Etienne Anglès d’Auriac, Total’s VP Climate.
Controlling methane emissions, a priority for Total
Gas emits half the greenhouse gases of coal in power generation and is a natural partner to renewable energies.
Abundant and inexpensive, it posted the biggest growth of any primary energy source in 2018, at 4.6%, and offers the most immediate and practical solution for combating the rise in greenhouse gas emissions. For these reasons, Total has continued to expand across the entire gas value chain. To fully play its role in the energy transition, the integrated natural gas value chain needs to reduce its emissions of methane, which has far greater warming potential than carbon dioxide. Total is leading the way in this area.
Over the past three decades, we have taken steps to reduce and account for our methane emissions in complete transparency, using a detailed methodology in which Total is classified as an expert according to the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.
Our performance in reducing methane emissions is among the industry’s best.
As part of our inspection and maintenance programs, we identify and analyze leaks, make repairs and document our follow-up reviews.
We have substantially reduced flaring at our facilities and are limiting sources of process-related venting. As a result, we succeeded in reducing our methane emissions in 2018 to less than 0.25% of the commercial gas we produce.We intend to continue that trend by sustainably bringing emissions below a 0.2% level by 2025.
Total in the US at a glance
Total is a key player in the U.S. where we operate in 23 states and employ more than 7.500 employees. We provide a full range of energy solutions in the U.S. - natural gas, oil and low-carbon electricity (renewables, solar in particular, and gas based) - and we expect to be, by the end of 2020, the largest exporter of U.S. LNG.
"Total intends to be a major player in US gas and must therefore be particularly vigilant on methane emissions. We believe EPA should seize the opportunity to align U.S. regulations with proven, reasonable strategies to reduce methane emissions as those put in place at Total", explains Vincent Stoquart, Total's Senior Vice President Refining & Petrochemicals Americas.