• Max Clark

Dominion Energy Targets Methane Emissions

Oil and gas companies are making efforts to reduce their carbon footprint by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. One company in this push is Dominion Energy. At a recent conference in West Virginia, a representative from Dominion spoke about the new initiatives and outlined their future emissions goals and methods to achieve them.

Dominion Energy is a major player in the American energy sector. The Virgnina-based company and its 16,200 employees generate and transmit energy for customers in 14 states, with a $42.93B market capitalization. They also own and operate 15,000 miles of natural gas pipelines, store up to 928 bcf of natural gas, and run 6,600 miles of electric transmission lines. Investopedia ranks Dominion as the 7th largest energy provider in the country. Dominion currently services two states in the Marcellus region, Ohio and West Virginia, but does not service Pennsylvania.

Their stated mission is to reduce methane emissions in their natural gas division in half by 2030, equating to a reduction of 430,000 metric tons of methane emitted. They plan to achieve this in three key fronts: eliminating well venting, updating outdated and inefficient equipment and improving leak detection and repair.

* Venting is a rather “old-school” process in which natural gas is released, or “vented” from well sites directly into the atmosphere during maintenance and inspection activities. It is the largest source of emissions on a well site. Often times that gas is ignited in a processes called “flaring” but that is not always the case. Dominion now plans to use more modern technology to harness that otherwise wasted natural gas from the venting process to be recycled and reused. Additionally, Dominion is working hand-in-hand with major agriculture companies to harness methane released naturally by animals. They have recently created a joint venture with a major farming company to implement technology on farms that would trap and clean methane from animals to be reused.

* The EIA estimates that in 2018, 1.4% of all natural gas extracted is lost in the transmission process. Outdated or faulty equipment are responsible for a smaller portion of emissions on well sites. A 2014 study found that 20% of the equipment, primarily gas actuated controllers, on a site were responsible for 95% of the site’s total emissions. Dominion discussed plans to replace these gas-powered pumps with electric pumps, as well as replacing steel pipes and fittings with plastics, which they say will reduce pump-related emissions by 90%.

* All other efforts to prevent leaks are less effective if leak detection is not possible. Dominion plans to identify leaks using infrared technology. Infrared cameras are already being used by natural gas companies to inspect well sites and pipelines for leaks with success by allowing leaks to be easily identified with the naked eye through the camera. Many “new” pipelines, like the Mariner East projects, utilize older existing infrastructure. Those aging pipelines are often the source of many leaks given their antiquity. However, if swiftly identified, even older pipelines can be repaired and retrofitted with newer technology to seal them.

Oil and gas companies need to respond to critics regarding their environmental impact. Dominion taking the initiative to reduce their emissions is a step in the right direction for the industry, and would only benefit those living near gas-related facilities.

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