Double Win: Federal Efforts Help Further Work Already Being Done by Utilities

Even as the federal government is supporting new technologies for methane reduction, the natural gas industry has continued to proactively upgrade its infrastructure to improve safety and reliability and to further lower methane emissions—a double win that is assuring gas’s continued role in the country’s energy future.

The American Gas Association recently applauded the U.S. Department of Energy for allocating up to $35 million for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program focused on developing technologies to reduce methane emissions.

The move is in line with AGA’s commitment—supported by its membership—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through smart innovation, new and modernized infrastructure, and advanced technologies that maintain reliable, resilient and affordable energy service choices for consumers.

“We fully support Secretary Granholm and the Biden administration’s efforts to identify innovative ways to further reduce methane emissions from the natural gas delivery system as it continues to play a critical role in achieving our nation’s energy and environmental goals,” said AGA President and CEO Karen Harbert. “We continuously examine our 2.6 million miles of infrastructure for methane reduction opportunities and are investing in ways to help other industries reduce emissions by injecting their methane into our delivery system.”

Many AGA members are piloting new technologies to reduce methane emissions from their day-to-day operations. Pipeline network upgrades alone have reduced emissions by 77%, according to the 2021 inventory of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Research funding from ARPA-E will help accelerate those emission reduction efforts, Harbert said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s recently released 2021 Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks shows that annual emissions from the natural gas distribution system declined 69% from 1990 to 2019, even as natural gas utility companies added more than 788,000 miles of pipeline to serve 21 million more customers. Distribution systems owned and operated by local natural gas utilities emit only 0.08% of produced natural gas.

The EPA inventory, the most comprehensive assessment of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions available, affirms a low methane emissions profile for natural gas distribution systems shaped by a declining trend.

“This downward trend in emissions underscores the valuable role that natural gas will continue to play in our nation’s clean energy future,” Harbert said. “Delivering affordable, reliable energy does not have to be at odds with clean energy goals, and this data shows just that. Our industry is committed to the cleaner energy future we all are striving for and will continue to work every day to help ensure Americans have the energy they want and need while achieving our environmental goals.”