epa announces flights to look for methane in permian basin
Patches of land housing oil pumpjacks dot the landscape of the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas, Monday, Oct. 11, 2021. Carbon Mapper, a partnership of university researchers and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, documented massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian, a 250-mile-wide bone-dry expanse along the Texas-New Mexico border that a billion years ago was the bottom of a shallow sea. Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will conduct helicopter overflights to look for methane “super emitters” in the nation’s largest oil and gas producing region.

EPA’s Region 6 headquarters in Dallas, Texas, issued a news release about a new enforcement effort in the Permian Basin on Monday, saying the flights would occur within the next two weeks.

The announcement came four days after The Associated Press published an investigation that showed 533 oil and gas facilities in the region are emitting excessive amounts of methane and named the companies most responsible. Colorless and odorless, methane is a potent greenhouse gas that traps 83 times more heat in the atmosphere over a 20 year period than an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide.

EPA spokesman Tim Carroll said the timing of the agency’s announcement was not related to AP’s story and that similar overflights had been conducted in years past. EPA officials made no mention of an upcoming enforcement sweep in the Permian when interviewed by AP last month.

EPA Region 6 Administrator Earthea Nance said the Permian Basin accounts for 40 percent of our nation’s oil supply and for years has released dangerous quantities methane and volatile organic compounds, contributing to climate change and poor air quality.

epa announces flights to look for methane in permian basin
A flare burns off methane and other hydrocarbons as oil pumpjacks operate in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Massive amounts of methane are venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian Basin, new aerial surveys show. The emission endanger U.S. targets for curbing climate change. Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman

“The flyovers are vital to identifying which facilities are responsible for the bulk of these emissions and therefore where reductions are most urgently needed,” Nance said, according to the agency’s media release.

AP used 2021 data from the group Carbon Mapper to document massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian, a 250-mile-wide bone-dry expanse along the Texas-New Mexico border that a billion years ago was the bottom of a shallow sea.

A partnership of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and academic researchers, Carbon Mapper used an airplane carrying an infrared spectrometer to detect and quantify the unique chemical fingerprint of methane in the atmosphere. Hundreds of sites were shown persistently spewing the gas across multiple overflights.

Last October, AP journalists visited more than two dozen sites flagged as persistent methane super emitters by Carbon Mapper with a FLIR infrared camera and recorded video of large plumes of hydrocarbon gas containing methane escaping from pipeline compressors, tank batteries, flare stacks and other production infrastructure. The Carbon Mapper data and the AP’s camera work show many of the worst emitters are steadily charging the Earth’s atmosphere with this extra gas.

Carbon Mapper identified the spewing sites only by their GPS coordinates. The AP then took the coordinates of the 533 “super-emitting” sites and cross-referenced them with state drilling permits, air quality permits, pipeline maps, land records and other public documents to piece together the corporations most likely responsible.

epa announces flights to look for methane in permian basin
Flares burn off methane and other hydrocarbons at an oil and gas facility in Lenorah, Texas, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021. Massive amounts of methane are venting into the atmosphere from oil and gas operations across the Permian Basin, new aerial surveys show. The emission endanger U.S. targets for curbing climate change. Credit: AP Photo/David Goldman

Just 10 companies owned at least 164 of those sites, according to an AP analysis of Carbon Mapper’s data.

AP also compared the estimated rates at which the super emitting sites were observed gushing methane with the annual reports the companies are required to submit to EPA detailing their greenhouse gas emissions. AP found the EPA’s database often fails to account for the true rate of emissions observed in the Permian.

The methane released by these companies will be disrupting the climate for decades, contributing to more heat waves, hurricanes, wildfires and floods. There’s now nearly three times as much methane in the air than there was before industrial times. The year 2021 saw the worst single increase ever.

EPA recently enacted restrictions on how much methane can be released from new oil and gas facilities. But proposed regulations on the hundreds of thousands of older sites responsible for the bulk of emissions are still under review. What are restricted under current federal regulations are toxic air pollutants such as hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide and cancer-causing benzene that often accompany methane and are sometimes called “ridealong” gases.

EPA said this week it too would collect data from its airborne observations in the Permian and use the GPS locations to identify the facilities releasing excess emissions. The agency said it will initiate enforcement actions against the companies responsible that could include administrative enforcement actions and referrals to the Justice Department. EPA said companies found to be violating federal law could face significant financial penalties as well as future monitoring to verify corrective action was taken.

© 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Citation: EPA announces flights to look for methane in Permian Basin (2022, August 3) retrieved 3 August 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-08-epa-flights-methane-permian-basin.html This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

TECH NEWS RELATED

Apple warns its suppliers about China following Pelosi Taiwan visit

Ripple effects are continuing to multiply after the controversial visit of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan just a few days ago. That visit sparked furious saber-rattling from China, for example, and even had some people fretting about WWIII. Fortunately, the worst-case fears about the Pelosi Taiwan visit ...

View more: Apple warns its suppliers about China following Pelosi Taiwan visit

A brief history of Esperanto, the 135-year-old language hated by Hitler and Stalin

In the late 1800s, the city of Białystok – which was once Polish, then Prussian, then Russian, and is today again part of Poland – was a hub of diversity, with large numbers of Poles, Germans, Russians and Yiddish-speaking Ashkanazi Jews. Each group spoke a different language and viewed ...

View more: A brief history of Esperanto, the 135-year-old language hated by Hitler and Stalin

James Gunn says Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. will be ‘incredibly emotional’

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 is one of the most anticipated movies of Phase 5, and the more we hear about its mysterious plot, the more exciting the sequel becomes. Vol. 3 was already exciting without any of the teasers from James Gunn or the leaked Comic-Con trailer ...

View more: James Gunn says Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3. will be ‘incredibly emotional’

Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 Won’t Have an S Pen Slot

Samsung via Equal Leaks Rumors suggested that the Galaxy Z Fold 4 could feature a dedicated S Pen slot, much like the Galaxy S22 Ultra or older Galaxy Note devices. But an accidental Amazon listing proves that the phone cannot hold an S Pen without an add-on case. The Amazon ...

View more: Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold 4 Won’t Have an S Pen Slot

Harvard scientists closer to solving centuries-old heart mystery

Researchers at Harvard’s John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) believe they have taken a step towards solving a centuries-old heart muscle mystery — and towards the ability to eventually fabricate entire human hearts for transplantation. Using a new form of textile manufacturing, akin to a ...

View more: Harvard scientists closer to solving centuries-old heart mystery

Fintech platform Scripbox makes strategic investment in Pune-based Wealth Managers

Online wealth management platform Scripbox has made a strategic investment in Pune-based wealth advisory platform Wealth Managers.Scripbox declined to comment on the size of the deal.This is expected to bolster its geographical presence, expand customer base and offer digital solutions to Wealth Managers’ clientele.Over the past six months, Scripbox has ...

View more: Fintech platform Scripbox makes strategic investment in Pune-based Wealth Managers

Russians Building a Satellite-Blinding Laser – An Expert Explains the Ominous Technology

A powerful enough laser beam could blind spy satellites. According to a recent report in The Space Review, Russia is building a new ground-based laser facility for interfering with satellites orbiting overhead. The basic idea is simple: flooding the optical sensors of other nations’ spy satellites with laser light ...

View more: Russians Building a Satellite-Blinding Laser – An Expert Explains the Ominous Technology

Podcast #688 – Intel & AMD Financials, Ryzen 7000 Date, be quiet! Pure Base 500 FX, Sonos, 0-Day Hacks + MORE!

Josh wanders back in for this 688 Attack Sub sized podcast. We explore another week of tech news, including about 17 straight minutes of Intel and AMD Q2 financial analysis from Josh. If that isn’t stimulating enough for you we also talk about upcoming CPU launches, a mandatory look ...

View more: Podcast #688 – Intel & AMD Financials, Ryzen 7000 Date, be quiet! Pure Base 500 FX, Sonos, 0-Day Hacks + MORE!

Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 Rumors: Will It Have Better Battery Life?

Apple Delays iPadOS 16 Software Update To Focus on iPhone 14

40-Year Mystery: Doctors Solve a Case of Unexplained Finger Pain

Spotify Finally Fixes Its Stupid Play Button

ISRO says rocket carrying small satellites placed them in wrong orbit, rendering them unusable

Save up to 41% on Already-Affordable SoundPEATS Earbuds Today Only

Netflix releases: Everything coming and going the week of August 7

Apple may launch at least four new smart home products by early 2024

Hands-on photos and features of Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 leaked

These $269 Noise Cancelling Sleep Earbuds Provide a Nearly Silent Slumber

New Cancer Drug Combination Reduced Risk of Death by 31%

People are saying this big Marvel plot hole might ruin the MCU

OTHER TECH NEWS

Top Car News Car News