US industry seen playing promising role in greenhouse emission control

US producers may be able to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and boost domestic production by expanding enhanced recovery methods, policymakers said in a recent report.

Maureen Lorenzetti
Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Aug. 28 -- US producers may be able to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and boost domestic production by expanding enhanced recovery methods, policymakers said in a recent report.

A work group organized by the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission and the US Department of Energy plans to study potential uses for carbon dioxide sequestration within the oil industry.

Oil companies currently pump about 32 million tons of CO2 gas each year into oil or natural gas reservoirs to boost production. The gas also has the potential to efficiently displace methane-rich natural gas from deep, unmineable coal seams, IOGCC said.

IOGCC said that CO2 accounts for about 81% of greenhouse gases, "and concentrations are only expected to increase."

The group, which represents the governors of 30 member energy-producing states, said it also wants to take the lead on developing greenhouse gas regulations because "states will be the first to feel its impacts." The White House is resisting mandatory emission controls for CO2, saying it wants to work with industry on voluntary restraints that are more cost-effective. Environmental groups and some energy companies say mandatory limits are needed to create meaningful reductions in gases that are linked to global warming.

At the request of DOE, IOGCC recently organized a group of officials from states with high potential for sequestration of CO2. These states include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Senate to study issue
In a similar vein, Senate Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) plans to hold a hearing this fall to look at global efforts to reduce gas venting and flaring.

There is increasing concern that the flaring or venting of associated natural gas, including methane and other light hydrocarbons, is a major contributor of greenhouse gases directly linked with global climate change, according to the United Nations. Available worldwide statistics for 2000 show the amount of gas flared is in the range of 102-135 billion cu m/year.

Bingaman's hearing will explore both the US's and non-US role in supporting the petroleum industry as it seeks to reduce venting and flaring of gas. A World Bank Group initiative established last November in Marrakech first sought to establish an international dialogue on flaring reductions in the hopes collective action could be taken.

On a global scale, reliable venting and flaring statistics do not exist, according to Bingaman. One of the World Bank's goals is to improve the collection and dissemination of gas venting and flaring data, including the development of international measurement and reporting standards, and a possible voluntary flaring "certification" scheme based on these standards. His hearing hopes to explore whether the US should take an active role in helping to develop international standards. A first step will be reviewing current domestic flaring policies and reporting procedures.

Contact Maureen Lorenzetti at Maureenl@ogjonline.com.

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