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Methane emissions in the Permian Basin back at pre-pandemic levels: EDF

Methane Permian basin

Methane emissions at the biggest oilfield in the United States, the Permian Basin, are back at pre pandemic levels, according to a study by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). That is a grim data point, considering that in March-April, 2020, emissions at the site dropped 60 per cent.

Firstly, the crash in oil prices a year ago prompted a series of closures in wells around the area and the cut back of existing ones, according to the non-profit Environmental Defense Fund.

Secondly, now, with crude prices back at $50 average, methane emissions rebounded, citing data from Permian Methane Analysis Project.

Thirdly, methane is about 80% more harmful greenhouse gas compared with carbon dioxide, over its first two decades in the atmosphere. President Joe Biden however, has pledged to reduce this kind of emissions.

Nevertheless, to achieve that, substantial regulatory oversight is needed; also, a series of investments in pipelines as well as in greenhouse gas capture technologies. As it is often cheaper for producers to burn or to release the gas.

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Methane needs to no longer stay under the policy radar: EDF

On the other hand, oil majors like BP and Shell have also pledged to reduce these emissions by upgrading their flaring, or even cutting it; and also employing better detection and capture methods.

Moreover, according to a study by EDF, cited by Bloomberg, methane emissions have been a recurrent issue in upstream operations, particularly in the Permian Basin, which goes along West Texas and southeastern New Mexico.

In addition, EDF scientist, David Lyon, said. “Operators in the Permian have historically produced more gas than the region’s facilities; including both upstream and midstream; resulting in the highest emissions observed from any U.S. oil and gas basin.”

He also added: “This can no longer fly under the policy radar. Permian methane levels have returned to pre-COVID highs; as drilling levels continue to increase confirms we need more state and federal oversight of oil and gas operations to manage this emissions problem.”

Finally, he concluded. “This science should put those problems squarely in policymakers’ scopes in Texas, New Mexico and at the federal level.” 

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