WSJ: Natural gas leaking, venting and flaring equivalent to driving 79 million miles

flaring natural gas in Texas
© Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Evidently natural gas has a clean image that is being threatened by reality.

What's the world coming to? First we had the commies in the Financial Times predicting the end of oil, and now we have those hippies at the Wall Street Journal writing about how "leaks can threaten the clean image of Natural Gas."

Rebecca Elliott writes that "2.3% of the natural gas produced in the U.S. escapes directly into the atmosphere due in part to leaky equipment or intentional discharges." More is lost because the companies are looking for oil and the gas would cost too much to ship; they treat it as an unwanted byproduct.

Another roughly $4.5 million in U.S. gas went up in smoke each day in 2018, World Bank data show, as energy companies burned fuel they couldn’t move to market or chose not to ship because the cost of doing so would have exceeded the price the gas would fetch in some regions. Many companies drill primarily for oil and treat the gas released in the process as a byproduct. The government certainly doesn't care, and the Trump administration is actually weakening the rules.

Still, from oil giants to the independent drillers powering the shale boom, companies are scrambling to rein in emissions over concerns from their executives, shareholders and environmentalists that gas waste could undermine the argument for gas being the “bridge fuel” to a cleaner future of renewables.

Most environmentalists don't have much time anymore for the "bridge fuel" or the "clean image" pitched by the gas industry, but the industry does appear to recognize the problem here.

Leaking and flaring are a global problem. As gas displaces coal for electricity production in the U.S. and other countries, its side effects are drawing more attention, not just from environmental activists but investors fretting about how gas will compete over the long term against renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are dropping in price.

The numbers are staggering; the estimated 13 teragrams of gas lost each year are equivalent in carbon emissions to 37 billion gallons of gas burned, 79 million miles driven, and a very silly 41 trillion charges of your smart phone.

Being the Wall Street Journal, Rebecca Elliot then describes how all the big oil companies like Shell and BP are trying to fix this, looking for leaks with drones and lasers. They are investing in gathering and compressing systems to collect the gas instead of flaring or just releasing it. "We all have to get better," said Brian Pugh, chief innovation officer for BP’s U.S. onshore business. Shell has pledged to eliminate routine flaring by 2030, which is about when most environmentalists would say we have to eliminate natural gas altogether, so we still have a ways to go here.

But hey, it's a start, it's on the radar, and they are feeling the heat. And it is certainly ammunition in our continuing discussions about how natural gas really isn't clean at all.

WSJ: Natural gas leaking, venting and flaring equivalent to driving 79 million miles
Evidently natural gas has a clean image that is being threatened by reality.

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