Natural Gas STAR is a flexible, voluntary partnership that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt proven, cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce methane emissions. Methane is emitted by oil production and all sectors of the natural gas industry, from drilling and production, through processing and storage, to transmission and distribution. Given that methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas, reducing these emissions results in many environmental, economic and operational benefits.
In 2006, in support of the Global Methane Initiative (originally the Methane to Markets Partnership) , EPA expanded the Program to include international operations, significantly increasing opportunities to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector worldwide.
- Program Overview
- Overview of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry
- Breakdown of Sector Emissions
- Industry Links
Working collaboratively with the oil and natural gas industry in the United States since 1993, Natural Gas STAR has provided a framework to encourage partner companies to implement methane emissions reducing technologies and practices and document their voluntary emission reduction activities. Through this work, the oil and natural gas industry, in conjunction with Natural Gas STAR, has pioneered some of the most widely–used, innovative technologies and practices that reduce methane emissions.
Under the Global Methane Initiative , EPA is building on the successes of the domestic program by launching Natural Gas STAR International, a global partnership with oil and natural gas companies. This expansion of the Natural Gas STAR Program significantly increases opportunities to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations worldwide.
In addition, to learn more about the Natural Gas STAR Program, visit Join the Program and Guidelines to Participation. The Natural Gas STAR Program Fact Sheet (PDF) (4 pp, 330K, About PDF) provides an overview of the Program and why reducing methane emissions is so important in today's market place and environment.
Overview of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry
Oil and natural gas systems encompass wells, gas gathering and processing facilities, storage, and transmission and distribution pipelines. These components are all important aspects of the natural gas cycle—the process of getting natural gas out of the ground and to the end user which can generally be broken out into four sectors. Each sector is defined as follows:
- Production focuses on taking raw natural gas from underground formations.
- Gathering and Processing focuses on stripping out impurities and other hydrocarbons and fluids to produce pipeline grade natural gas that meets specified tariffs (pipeline quality natural gas is 95-98 percent methane).
- Transmission focuses on delivery of natural gas from the wellhead and processing plant to city gate stations or industrial end users. Transmission occurs through a vast network of high pressure pipelines. Natural gas storage falls within this sector. Natural gas is typically stored in depleted underground reservoirs, aquifers, and salt caverns.
- Distribution focuses on the delivery of natural gas from the major pipelines to the end users (e.g., residential, commercial and industrial).
In the oil industry, some underground crude contains natural gas that is entrained in the oil at high reservoir pressures. When oil is removed from the reservoir, associated natural gas is produced.
Cost-Effective Opportunities to Recover Methane
In conjunction with the oil and natural gas industry, the Natural Gas STAR Program has identified many technologies and practices that can be implemented to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Many of these technologies and practices can be effective in reducing emissions in all sectors throughout oil and natural gas systems. The Natural Gas STAR Program offers technical documents covering a wide range of recommended technologies and practices that have various implementation costs and anticipated payback periods. The following diagram shows some of the top methane emission reduction opportunities for each sector.
Gas Production and Processing
- Perform reduced emissions completions
- Install plunger lifts
- Aerial leak detection using laser and/or infrared technology
- Eliminate unnecessary equipment and/or systems
- Install VRUs on crude oil storage tanks
- Route casinghead gas to VRU or compressor for recovery & use or sale
- Convert gas pneumatic controls to instrument air
- Replace bi-directional orifice metering with ultrasonic meters
- Reduce methane emissions from compressor rod packing systems
- DI&M at compressor stations
- Use fixed/portable compressors for pipeline pumpdown
- Install vapor recovery units on pipeline liquid/condensate tanks
- DI&M at surface facilities
- Identify and replace high-bleed pneumatic devices
- Survey and repair leaks
The success of the Natural Gas STAR Program suggests that there are significant opportunities globally to address major emission sources and cost-effectively reduce methane emissions. The Natural Gas STAR Program’s efforts help partners implement the right cost-effective emission reduction technologies and practices have lead to measurable results. The positive impacts of Natural Gas STAR are social, environmental, and/or financial in nature.
For additional information, visit:
- Natural Gas STAR—recommended technologies and practices.
- Natural Gas STAR videos highlighting leak detection technologies and other opportunities to recover methane.
- Natural Gas STAR Program Accomplishments and top technologies and practices implemented by Natural Gas STAR partners.
- ON TIME Tool displays interactive flow diagrams of the oil and natural gas industry. Within each oil and gas sector diagram, the Tool contains links to a glossary, applicable methane emissions reduction control technologies and practices, and an industry description.
- Marginal Abatement Curves (MACs) present international level information on the potential for and costs of abating non-CO2 greenhouse gases from anthropogenic sources. The information is provided as a zip file for downloading and includes a list of the countries covered and their regional groupings, as well as a file which lists country-specific energy prices (see indicators.xls).
Breakdown of Sector Emissions
Methane emissions occur in all sectors of the natural gas industry, from production, through processing and transmission, to distribution. They primarily result from normal operations, routine maintenance, fugitive leaks and system upsets. As gas moves through the system, emissions occur through intentional venting and unintentional leaks. Venting can occur through equipment design or operational practices, such as the continuous bleed of gas from pneumatic devices (that control gas flows, levels, temperatures, and pressures in the equipment), or venting from well completions during production. In addition to vented emissions, methane losses can occur from leaks (also referred to as fugitive emissions) in all parts of the infrastructure, from connections between pipes and vessels, to valves and equipment.
In addition to natural gas operations, methane emissions can result from the oil industry, primarily from field production operations, such as venting of associated gas from oil wells, oil storage tanks, and production-related equipment such as gas dehydrators, pig traps, and pneumatic devices.
The EPA estimates methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry in its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. Aggregate methane emission estimates by the major oil and natural gas sectors in the United States are presented below (where Bcf stands for billion cubic feet):
Production Sector Emissions 2011
Processing Sector Emissions 2011
Transmission Sector Emissions 2011
Distribution Sector Emissions 2011
To learn more about the oil and natural gas industry, as well as protocols and methodologies for quantifying emissions, visit:
- Natural Gas STAR Endorsers list provides links to all of the Program's trade associations' and endorsers' websites.
- NaturalGas.org is an educational website covering a variety of topics related to the natural gas industry.
- Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is an independent agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas, and oil.
- Energy Information Administration (EIA) provides official energy-related statistics from the U.S. government.
- International Petroleum Industry Environmental Conservation Association (IPIECA) brings together the oil and gas industry on global, environmental, and social issues. It provides one of the industry’s principal channels of communication with the United Nations.