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Natural Gas STAR Program

Natural Gas STAR Program

Natural Gas STAR logoThe Natural Gas STAR Program provides a framework for partner companies with U.S. oil and gas operations to implement methane reducing technologies and practices and document their voluntary emission reduction activities. By joining the Program, partners commit to: 1) evaluate their methane emission reduction opportunities, 2) implement methane reduction projects where feasible, and 3) annually report methane emission reduction actions to the EPA.

By working together to reduce methane emissions, EPA and Natural Gas STAR partners are successfully improving performance, increasing natural gas supply, saving money, and protecting the environment. Participation in the Natural Gas STAR Program has numerous benefits, including:

  • Information Sharing and Technology Transfer – EPA facilitates Technology Transfer and Annual Implementation Workshops to help partners learn about new and innovative technologies and practices.
  • Peer Networking – Partners can participate in Technology Transfer Workshops, Annual Implementation Workshops, and Web-based communications to build strong networks with industry peers and keep up on industry trends, initiatives, and the latest technologies.
  • Voluntary Record of Reductions – Through Program participation and reporting, companies create a permanent record of their voluntary accomplishments in reducing methane emissions. In addition, annual reporting allows EPA to provide feedback to partners through individual, detailed summary reports.
  • Public Recognition – EPA provides recognition to highlight partner achievements in articles, industry journals, technical studies and fact sheets. EPA also helps partners communicate Program achievements to shareholders, customers, and the public.

Becoming a Natural Gas STAR partner and participating in the Program involves the following steps:

  • Step 1 - Sign a One-Page Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): This step initiates the Partnership, demonstrates the company’s commitment to the Program, and identifies company points of contact. By signing the MOU, the company is signifying its intent to evaluate current and future technologies and management practices that reduce methane emissions, implement them when cost-effective, and report these activities to EPA on an annual basis. 
  • Step 2 – Develop an Implementation Plan: The Natural Gas STAR Program works to advance cost-effective technologies that reduce methane emissions, but it is up to each partner to determine which technologies and practices it will implement to reduce emissions. The Implementation Plan facilitates the development of a strategy for how partners will identify non-regulatory methane emission reduction activities they are undertaking, plan new activities, and develop mechanisms for tracking methane emission reduction data and activities. An Implementation Plan is a living document that changes over time as each partner's goals and commitment evolve. Companies develop an Implementation Plan within 6 to 12 months of joining. 
  • Step 3 – Execute the Program: The Implementation Plan provides a roadmap that defines the key elements of a company's participation in the Program. While Natural Gas STAR Program representatives are available to provide assistance in identifying and prioritizing technologies and practices based on company-specific circumstances, it is ultimately up to partners to ensure that their program moves forward and that cost-effective activities are implemented. Over time, partners are encouraged to continue expanding on their emission reduction activities by communicating their achievements and engaging management and operations personnel.
  • Step 4 – Submit an Annual Progress Report: After one full calendar year of participation in the Program, partners begin submitting annual reports documenting the previous year’s emission reduction activities and corresponding methane emissions reductions. More detailed guidance about the annual reporting process can be found on the Reporting tab.

Natural Gas STAR Program MOU and Implementation Plan Forms

Complete the MOU and Implementation Plan forms under the appropriate sector for your company.  

Sector Document Title
Production
Gathering & Processing
Transmission
Distribution

Annual reporting for 2017 methane emissions reductions is open

Annual reporting is a key requirement to remain a partner in the Natural Gas STAR Program. Following the first full calendar year of participation in the Program, EPA requires partners to submit an annual report documenting the previous year’s methane emission reduction activities. It is important to note that all reported emission reduction activities must be voluntary and not driven by a regulatory requirement, whether it is environmental or otherwise.

In the spring of each year, EPA distributes annual reporting packages with the information that partners need to complete their annual reports. Natural Gas STAR encourages partners to report current and past activities that have resulted in methane emissions reductions. Through Program participation and reporting, companies create a permanent record of their voluntary accomplishments in reducing methane emissions. It is through annual reporting that partners receive an individual detailed summary report. This document summarizes the progress a company has made since joining the Program.

  • How do Partners Report to EPA?

    The Natural Gas STAR Program has developed an online reporting system to allow partners to quickly and easily submit annual methane emissions reduction data to EPA. Access to the Natural Gas STAR Online Reporting SystemExit is password-protected to keep company information private. Only the Natural Gas STAR Program and its contractors may access the information submitted by partners. 

  • What Is Included in an Annual Report?

    Natural Gas STAR annual reporting consists of voluntary (non-regulatory driven) methane emission reduction activities that partner companies have implemented in the previous year, including corresponding methane emissions reductions achieved, and to the extent available, the economics associated with each activity. Partners are also encouraged to report past activities that have resulted in methane emissions reductions, but that have not been previously reported to EPA.

    The implementation of certain technologies and practices reduces methane emissions for multiple years; therefore, Natural Gas STAR allows these to count toward a partner company’s emissions reductions beyond the initial year of implementation. Natural Gas STAR designates the maximum length of time that emissions reductions can accrue as “sunset dates.” Companies may either report the corresponding methane emissions reductions each year up to the allowable sunset date, or allow EPA to automatically roll-up their reductions for the designated period of time. View a complete list of Natural Gas STAR recommended technologies and practices and corresponding sunset dates.

    The Natural Gas STAR Program is also available to assist partners in conducting economic analyses related to the implementation of cost-effective technologies and practices. Please contact a EPA Natural Gas STAR Program Manager or STAR Service Representative for assistance.

This page highlights the methane emissions reductions that domestic partners have achieved, as well as the variety of technologies and practices they have implemented to reduce methane emissions.


Introduction

Natural Gas STAR Program partners have operations in all of the major industry segments (production, gathering and processing, transmission, and distribution) that deliver natural gas to end users.

Each year, these partners submit an annual report documenting their previous year’s methane emission reduction activities. Since the inception of the program, domestic partners have eliminated nearly 1.39 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of methane emissions by implementing approximately 150 cost-effective technologies and practices. The section below provides data on activities implemented by partners in 2016 to reduce methane emissions from their operations.


Domestic Accomplishments

During calendar year 2017, U.S. domestic partners submitted an annual report detailing their efforts in 2016 to reduce methane emissions from their operations. These voluntary activities consisted of 43 technologies and practices and resulted in domestic emissions reductions of 51.4 Bcf for the year. These methane emissions reductions have cross-cutting benefits on domestic energy supply, industrial efficiency, revenue generation, improved air quality, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The emission reductions are equivalent to additional revenue of approximately $155 million in natural gas sales (assumes an average natural gas price of $3.00 per thousand cubic feet).

The charts below present the 2016 methane emissions reductions by segment as reported by Natural Gas STAR partners and the total domestic methane emissions reductions as of 2016.

 
Segment Percentage*
Production 75.3
Gathering and Processing 1.7
Transmission 22.2
Distribution 0.7
 
 
Year** Annual (Bcf) Cumulative (Bcf)
2004 76.1 409.5
2005 98.7 508.2
2006 92.5 600.6
2007 103.5 704.1
2008 116.7 820.8
2009 87.9 908.6
2010 101.6 1010.3
2011 91.3 1101.6
2012 69.7 1171.3
2013 55.3 1226.6
2014 54.6 1281.2
2015 56.2 1337.4
2016 51.4 1388.8

*Note that percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
**During the current reporting season, the program received corrected data for activities conducted in previous years. The historical time series was recalculated, incorporating these updated data, so totals reported this year will not match those reported in previous accomplishments reports.


Below are segment-specific summaries of 2016 methane emissions reductions reported by partners and the top technologies and practices that were employed.

Production Segment

Since 1990, Production segment partners have reported reductions totaling 982.3 Bcf. In 2016, Production segment partners reported 38.8 Bcf of methane emissions reductions through the use of a variety of technologies, such as:

  • Reducing emissions when removing accumulated fluid in gas wells by installing a plunger or artificial lift system; or operating smart well automation
  • Installing vapor recovery units (VRUs) on storage tank atmospheric vents
  • Installing/converting gas-driven pumps to electric, mechanical, or solar driven pumps

Gathering and Processing Segment

Since 1990, Gathering and Processing segment partners have reported reductions totaling 52.1 Bcf. In 2016, Gathering and Processing segment partners reported 0.9 Bcf of methane emissions reductions through the use of a variety of technologies, such as:

  • Capturing methane-containing gas from glycol dehydrators with flash tank separators or replacing glycol dehydrators with methanol injection
  • Installing/converting gas-pressure driven pumps to electric, mechanical, or solar driven pumps
  • Eliminating unnecessary equipment and/or systems

Transmission Segment

Since 1990, Transmission segment partners have reported reductions totaling 321.4 Bcf. In 2016, Transmission segment partners reported 11.4 Bcf of methane emissions reductions through the use of a variety of technologies, such as:

  • Recovering high pressure gas from pipelines using pump-down techniques and avoiding pipeline venting by making connections to pipelines in service, under pressure, using hot tap connections
  • Using composite wrap to avoid venting non-leaking pipes for repair
  • Reducing emissions from compressors by replacing gas engines with electric motor driven compressors or eliminating oil seal vents on compressors by retrofitting with non-venting dry seals

Distribution Segment

Since 1990, Distribution segment partners have reported reductions totaling 49.9 Bcf. In 2016, Distribution segment partners reported 1.1 Bcf of methane emissions reductions through the use of a variety of technologies, such as:

  • Conducting gas leak inspection surveys and repairing leaks at surface facilities
  • Reducing emissions from third-party damage (dig-ins) to underground piping by installing excess flow shutoff valves on customer service lines
  • Converting from pressurized natural gas powered (pneumatic) controls to compressed air systems

For more information, or if you have any questions, please contact the Natural Gas STAR team.

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Historical Accomplishments

The Natural Gas STAR Program prepares accomplishments summaries annually to capture a snapshot of the Program's achievements at the time of original publication. Please refer to the most current information above for methane emissions reductions achieved and top technologies and practices implemented by partners. You may also view historical summaries that document the accomplishments for previous years:

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Partners can derive the most benefit from the Natural Gas STAR Program by incorporating its principles into day-to-day operations. Raising awareness about the Program and motivating employees to proactively seek out—and communicate about—new opportunities promotes strong participation and success without requiring significant additional resources. This section provides a brief description of concepts and ideas used by partners to generate this corporate momentum. 

  • Form a Cross-Functional Team

    Partners have found that establishing cross-functional Natural Gas STAR teams can facilitate comprehensive execution of the Program. By engaging representatives from management, EH&S, operations and maintenance, engineering, supply chain and project planning, Natural Gas STAR principles and messages can reach a wider audience. By educating these representatives on Natural Gas STAR, each can contribute ideas for how the Program can be implemented within their function.

    In addition to considering technologies and practices for implementation, the cross-functional team can identify key stakeholders, consider how the team is going to communicate, and identify and resolve barriers. Benefits of a functional team include:

    • Increasing collaboration with staff that are involved with day-to-day operations.
    • Receiving input and support from staff who will be responsible for implementing or managing the methane emission reduction technologies and activities.
    • Improving communications with management to ensure continued support and buy-in.
    • Providing a platform for vetting program ideas and priorities.
  • Evaluate Methane Emission Reduction Opportunities

    The Natural Gas STAR Program has developed a broad range of tools and technical resources to help evaluate and implement proven methane emission reduction activities. Periodic reviews of the following resources can ensure that a company is aware of the latest technologies and practices that are relevant for their industry sector.

    • Technical Documents — Natural Gas STAR provides information on more than 80 innovative, cost-effective methane emission reduction opportunities. Resources include Lessons Learned Studies and Partner Reported Opportunities (PRO) Fact Sheets.  The Recommended Technologies and Practices section of the Natural Gas STAR website provides a comprehensive list of these opportunities, including implementation costs and anticipated payback.
    • Natural Gas STAR Partner Update —These newsletters provide information about the Natural Gas STAR Program, cutting edge emissions reduction practices and technologies, partner accomplishments, workshops/events and other sector related news.
  • Communicate Success

    Natural Gas STAR partner companies work hard to advance emission reduction technologies and practices. Effectively communicating success helps a company to maintain momentum, further engage employees, and share achievements with other stakeholders.

    • Announcing Your Partnership  — Companies new to the partnership are encouraged to announce that they have joined Natural Gas STAR in their company newsletter, website, or in a press release to advertise to individuals within the company, as well as outside entities, the company's commitment to the environment.
    • Publicizing Your Natural Gas STAR Accomplishments — After your company has begun implementing technologies and practices as part of your commitment to reducing methane emissions, you are encouraged to publicize your methane emissions reductions in your company newsletter, website, or shareholder report to illustrate the company's dedication to participating in the Program and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Natural Gas STAR Logo:  As a partner in EPA's Natural Gas STAR Program, you are encouraged to use the Program's logo as part of your company's corporate communications program. The Natural Gas STAR logo can be used:

    • On promotional items.
    • On corporate letterhead for environmental communications.
    • In trade show exhibition booths.
    • As a link from a company's corporate website to the Natural Gas STAR Program home page.