Harrisburg, PA – According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) latest inventory of air emissions for the unconventional natural gas operation industry, several categories of contaminants have increased.
The inventory represents 2014 emissions from Marcellus Shale natural gas production and processing operations as well as compressor stations that receive gas from coal gas, conventional, and unconventional well sites. Air emissions from the industry are required to be reported to DEP under Pennsylvania’s Air Pollution Control Act.
“As pipeline infrastructure and natural gas production continues to grow in Pennsylvania, it is increasingly important that we ensure that natural gas stays in those pipelines and other facilities and isn’t leaking into our communities,” DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell said. “With universal adoption of best practices that many companies are already using, we expect leaks to go down even as production goes up.”
According to the recently released 2015 Annual Oil and Gas Report, production from unconventional gas wells increased significantly, from 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas to 4.1 trillion cubic feet.
“Additionally, the types and number of gas-related facilities from which we collect data has increased since the first inventory in 2011,” said McDonnell.
The data reported for six major categories of contaminants are provided below:
UNCONVENTIONAL NATURAL GAS EMISSIONS BY YEAR
Expressed in Tons per Year
The number of midstream facilities that submitted data in 2014 increased by 12 percent – from 447 to 508 reporting facilities, while the number of well sites reporting dropped 2.7 percent – from 10,275 in 2013 to 10,009 in 2014.
From 2013 and 2014, there was an increase from unconventional natural gas operations of nitrogen oxides (18%), fine particulate matter (25%), sulfur dioxide (40%), volatile organic compounds (25%), methane (1%), and carbon monoxide (19%). However, these emissions represent only a fraction of all emissions from all industries in Pennsylvania.
“Although the reported emissions from the natural gas sector increased in 2014, overall our air quality continues to improve due to emissions reductions from other point sources such as electric generating units,” McDonnell said. “Between 2011 and 2014, NOx and SO2 emissions from electric generating units have decreased by 18 percent (27,246 tons per year) and 17 percent (54,973 tons per year), respectively. We remain committed to developing and implementing the most effective ways to control and reduce emissions from Pennsylvania’s natural gas sites.”
In 2014, there was a slight (1%) increase in reported methane emissions, a highly potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. In January, Governor Tom Wolf announced an ambitious strategy to reduce emissions of methane from natural gas well sites, processing facilities, compressor stations and along pipelines through state-of-the-art leak detection programs, best operational practices and updated permitting requirements.
DEP began collecting emissions data from owners and operators of unconventional natural gas sources in 2011. In 2012, DEP expanded the data reporting requirement to include midstream compressor stations that support the conventional natural gas industry. DEP again expanded the reporting requirements in 2013 to include data from mid-stream compressor stations that support coal-bed methane formations.
In addition to compressor stations, other sources and activities of natural gas operations that DEP identified as part of the inventory include dehydration units; drill rigs; fugitive emission sources, such as connectors, flanges, pump lines, pump seals and valves; heaters; pneumatic controllers and pumps; stationary engines; tanks, pressurized vessels and impoundments; venting and blow down systems; well heads and well completions.
To view the complete emissions inventory summarized by company, source category, county and well farm, visit DEP’s website at http://www.dep.pa.gov/Business/Air/BAQ/BusinessTopics/Emission, and click on the “Annual Emissions Data from Natural Gas Operations” link under the topic “Natural/Coal Bed Methane Gas Operations.”