For starters, gas can dramatically reduce CO2 emissions in the power sector. Indeed, the recent growth of natural gas in electricity generation — displacing other fossil fuels — is the main reason that America’s energy-related CO2 emissions declined by 14 percent between 2005 and 2017.
Meanwhile, gas can provide essential backup generation for renewables like solar and wind, helping them produce energy even when it’s not sunny or windy.
With operations that span five states — Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming — BP’s Lower 48 onshore business is one of America’s largest natural gas producers. It also has been an industry leader in understanding and addressing the challenge posed by methane emissions.
Methane is the primary component of natural gas. It has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, but it has a higher global warming potential.
BP’s Lower 48 business has achieved significant methane reductions through a series of voluntary actions. For example:
Thanks to these actions and others, BP’s Lower 48 business has slashed its total greenhouse gas emissions by more than 2 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent since 2000, with methane reductions accounting for most of the decline.
The business continues to analyze innovative methane leak detection technologies that could help operators identify leaks more quickly and more efficiently. As part of those efforts, it is piloting the use of drone technology (unmanned aerial vehicles), while also testing other technologies that aim to quantify emissions.
In addition, BP Lower 48 recently launched a pilot project in which it teamed up with a Silicon Valley firm and applied a mathematical model to optimize production at 180 onshore wells in Wyoming. This led to a 75 percent reduction in venting emissions events, a 20 percent increase in production and a 20 percent reduction in costs. The project will expand to more than 2,000 onshore wells by the end of 2018.
As that example demonstrates, BP’s focus on reducing methane emissions is closely tied to its larger strategy of improving efficiency and productivity.
“We recognize that, to maximize the climate advantage of natural gas, we have to reduce methane leakage,” says BP Lower 48 CEO Dave Lawler. “Our team has played a leading role on methane, and we’re proud of our recent progress. We also understand that reducing methane emissions with advanced technology can help make our operations safer, stronger and more reliable. In that sense, tackling the methane challenge is not only good for the environment, but also good for business.”