The natural gas supply chain is one of the most effective energy distribution networks available today. According to the EPA, 1.3% of natural gas is lost or emitted during its path from wellhead to customer.1
But these emissions are very important to reduce because of their near-term warming impact.
Emissions from the distribution sector are low, and as the operator of one of the most modern systems in the country, NW Natural has already replaced all leak-prone pipe. To drive real savings, it’s necessary to look upstream of our pipeline system to production at the wellhead.
The upstream part of our natural gas supply chain includes gas produced from fossil reserves buried in the Rockies and Western Canada. These regions are among the most tightly regulated of any natural gas basins in North America. Producers drill wells to remove that gas, process it to pipeline quality and then send it into interstate transmission pipelines.
The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) has identified six best practices that natural gas producers can adopt, using current technology and industry procedures, to lower emissions on existing wells by up to 30%.2
Using those NRDC best practices, NW Natural will work with producers to find new reduction opportunities — and we hope to pave the way for others in the industry to follow.
NW Natural and other industry partners are working with the Environmental Defense Fund to better understand the sources of and solutions to methane emissions across the entire supply chain.
Through a series of 16 independent studies, we’re learning more about how and where methane is escaping into the atmosphere. This data will enable us to deploy cost-effective solutions to further reduce climate impacts.
A 2013 study led by Washington State University and EDF found emissions from local distribution systems had decreased significantly over the past 20 years, thanks in large part to pipeline modernization efforts. In fact, NW Natural’s system emissions were 90% lower than EPA estimates at the time. Learn more: methane.wsu.edu.