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DOE Announces Initiatives to Reduce Methane Emissions

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a series of initiatives it is spearheading to “help modernize the nation’s natural gas transmission and distribution systems and reduce methane emissions.” The Obama Administration has been meeting with industry, academia and a host of other stakeholders to identify “opportunities to modernize natural gas infrastructure and reduce mid- and downstream methane emissions.” A fact sheet released by DOE indicates that there are many reasons for taking steps to reduce methane emissions including safety, environmental impacts and the economics of capturing released gas. The lengthy fact sheet highlights many new initiatives as well as enhancements to existing efforts. Here is a rundown on some of the programs highlighted in the announcement:

• Efficiency Standards for Natural Gas Compressors
• Incentives for Modernization of Natural Gas Transmission System Infrastructure
• Advanced Natural Gas System Manufacturing R&D Initiative
• Pipeline Efficiency Research, Development and Demonstration Program.
• Providing Loan Guarantees for New Reduction Technologies: Advanced Fossil Energy Projects that Reduce Methane Emissions
• Investing in Technologies for Leak Detection and Measurement

The fact sheet also highlights the steps that companies and industry are already undertaking to reduce methane emissions. The new efforts and focus on reducing methane emissions recognize the importance of ensuring that the value provided by natural gas as a low-carbon fuel are not undermined by upstream leakage. The promise of natural gas is that it is the cleanest burning fossil fuel but end-use benefits can be undermined if upstream emissions are too high.