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Christmas tree and Santa Against Permian Methane Emissions12/26/2023
Once upon a Christmas❄, Santa Claus, while checking his list, noticed something different. Far away in Texas, there was a place called the Permian Basin, not filled with snow, but with oil fields. These fields were letting out a gas called methane, which wasn't good for the air.
Santa, always caring for our planet, decided this year he'd do something about it. So, he set off on a special journey, with his bag of toys and a plan to help the Earth.
Let's join Santa on this unique adventure as he tries to make the Permian Basin a bit greener this Christmas.
Santa’s Workshop Observes: The EPA’s Elven Eyes
In a corner of Santa's workshop, a group of elves gathered around a big screen, watching something extraordinary. Far away in Texas, the EPA, like Santa's helpers, was busy watching over the Permian Basin. They weren't looking for naughty children, but for 'super-emitters' of methane gas using special cameras that could see what our eyes can't.
These infrared cameras, flying high in helicopters, were like magical eyes across the vast oil fields to find where this hidden gas was escaping into the air. Santa relies on his elves to make Christmas perfect, while the EPA was counting on these cameras to help keep our air clean.
Rudolph’s Red Nose and Methane’s Invisible Threat
Just like Rudolph's bright red nose lights up the foggy Christmas night, there's something invisible in the Permian Basin that needs illuminating. It's not as cheerful as Rudolph's nose, but it's just as important. This invisible thing is methane gas, along with VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), and they're affecting our climate and air.
Methane is a sneaky gas – you can't see it, but it's there, warming up the planet just like a winter coat️. Santa knows that to have clear skies and healthy air, we need to understand and take care of these invisible gases, just like we depend on Rudolph to guide the sleigh.
Santa, all cozy in his big armchair decked out in red velvet and white fur, is flipping through a huge pile of reports. Just then, his chief elf, Jingles, comes in, looking curious as ever.
❄Jingles: "Santa, what's got you more furrowed than your usual 'naughty or nice' list?"
❄Santa: "Ah, Jingles, it's this report from the Permian Basin. The oil and gas emissions there are filling the air with methane, and it's much more than we ever thought – about 3.7 teragrams a year!"
❄Jingles, scratching his head: "But Santa, isn't that just numbers and science stuff? How does it affect our Christmas magic?"
❄Santa: "You see, Jingles, methane is a mischievous gas. It's like an invisible cloud of warmth – not the cozy kind we love. It's making our planet warmer, and that's no good for our winters and our Christmases."
❄Jingles: "So, what are the humans doing about it, Santa?"
❄Santa: "Well, the good folks have found out that the emissions are nearly three times what the EPA estimated. That's like finding out your Christmas stocking is triple stuffed with coal!"
❄Jingles: "Triple stuffed with coal? Oh, my! But there must be a way to fix it, right?"
❄Santa: "Indeed, Jingles! Sometimes, it's as simple as tightening a few valves or relighting those flares. But the tricky part is, they need to keep a constant eye on it, like we do with our naughty or nice list."
❄Jingles: "Can we help, Santa?"
❄Santa, with a twinkle in his eye: "Our job is to spread Christmas cheer and remind everyone to take care of our planet. We'll do our part by keeping our workshop green and teaching the reindeer about eco-friendly flying!"
❄Jingles, nodding enthusiastically: "You're right, Santa! We'll make sure our workshop sets an example. And maybe, just maybe, our efforts will reach the hearts of those in the Permian Basin!"
Santa leans back, a smile spreading across his rosy cheeks. He knows the task ahead is big, but with a sprinkle of Christmas magic and a dash of awareness, even the biggest challenges, like reducing methane emissions, can be tackled.
❄Santa: "Remember, Jingles, the true spirit of Christmas lies in caring for our planet. Let's make sure our story inspires others to do the same. HO, HO, HO!"
The Industry’s Naughty or Nice List: Todd Staples' Christmas Wishes
President of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, much like Santa in his workshop, Todd Staples has been busy with a list of his own. It's not about who's been naughty or nice in the usual sense, but about how the oil and natural gas industry in Texas is tackling a sneaky problem: methane emissions. Under Staples' leadership, the industry has taken this challenge head-on, just like Santa's elves tackling their Christmas Eve tasks.
❄Methane's Naughty List
Imagine methane as that one relative who always stirs up trouble at Christmas dinners. It's been causing about 30% of the global warming. The world's churning out around 580 million tons of this gas annually.
❄The Methane Spies in the Sky
International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) as holiday detectives. They're the ones piecing together clues from all over – satellites in space, data on the ground – to figure out where this sneaky methane is coming from. In 2022, they launched a super-secret mission called the Methane Alert and Response System. It's like getting an urgent message from the North Pole.
❄Satellites: Santa's High-Tech Reindeer
These satellites, let's call them Santa's high-tech reindeer, are flying around, spotting methane emissions. Sentinel-5P is leading the pack, seeing methane leaks we humans can't spot. But, just like Santa's sleigh might struggle in a blizzard, these satellites have a hard time seeing through forests or over the oceans. They're great, but not quite Rudolph-level great yet.
Carol of Controls: EPA’s New Jingle for the Basin
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has taken on a significant task, much like Santa's elves on Christmas Eve. They're mapping and measuring methane emissions, using advanced technologies that feel almost magical. This effort, involving tower-based sensors and vehicle-based approaches, is like a choir of carolers spreading awareness about the invisible gas – methane.
The Permian Basin, spanning vast lands in Texas and New Mexico, is a significant contributor, with its oil fields producing nearly five million barrels of oil daily. But these fields also release methane, often unregulated and unmeasured, much like uncounted Christmas lights twinkling in the night.
Here's how they're doing it:
❄ EDF uses tower monitors and mobile readings on the ground and in the air, capturing a detailed picture of methane emissions.
❄ They're estimating methane emission rates from basin-wide oil and gas production, with data updated and published publicly, providing transparent and actionable insights.
❄ Spanning over 86,000 square miles, the Permian Basin's high oil production rate comes with unmeasured and unregulated methane emissions. Satellite data has revealed significant methane hotspots and flaring issues.
Key research partners such as Pennsylvania State University and the University of Wyoming play crucial roles, each contributing their expertise. Pennsylvania State University is installing stationary sensors for continuous monitoring, while the University of Wyoming takes a mobile approach.
Jingle Bells, Pipelines Swell
2022 was a record-breaker for natural gas, with the Permian Basin turning into a Santa's workshop of gas production. Elves were busy, as pipelines like the Whistler, Permian Highway, planning to pump even more by 2024.
❄ Santa's New Workshops by Enterprise Products
Not to be outdone, Enterprise Products Partners, announcing their own Christmas gifts: two gas processing plants (Mentone 4 and Orion), a pipeline, and a fancy fractionator, all set to be unwrapped by 2025.
❄ The Ghost of Methane Present
Research elves have found that those gathering pipelines in the Permian are letting out methane like it's going out of style, at rates 14 times higher than EPA's estimates. That's 213,000 metric tons of methane yearly, making it seem like the Grinch might be running these pipelines.
❄ The Naughty List: Super-Emitting Facilities
Speaking of the Grinch, about 30 facilities in the Basin have been extra naughty, emitting more methane than you'd find in Santa's cookies. Just tackling these could cut down 100,000 metric tons of methane a year. These baddies make up less than a minuscule 0.001% of the region's infrastructure.
So there you have it, a Christmas story with a twist. As we hang our stockings and trim our trees, let's spare a thought for the Permian Basin, where the battle against methane emissions is a reminder that the best gift we can give our planet is a bit of care and attention.
Here's to a green Christmas and a cleaner New Year❄!
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