Industry groups mixed as EPA releases 2013 GHG emissions inventory

Greenhouse gas emissions from more than 8,000 large US industrial sources totaled 3.18 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2013, about half of total domestic GHG emissions, the US Environmental Protection Agency said in its fourth annual GHG inventory.

The amount was 20 million tonnes, or 0.6%, more than 2012’s total, driven largely by increased use of coal for power generation, EPA said in the Sept. 30 report. Power plants remained the largest single industrial source of GHGs, with more than 1,550 emitting more than 2 billion CO2 equivalent tonnes, 13 million more than in 2012 and roughly 32% of the US total.

Petroleum and natural gas systems were the second largest stationary source in 2013, reporting 224 million tonnes of GHG emissions, 1% less than in 2012, EPA indicated. Refineries, the third largest source, reported 177 tonnes, a 1.6% year-to-year increase.

EPA noted that reported oil and gas methane emissions have dropped 12% since 2011, with the biggest reductions coming from hydraulically fractured gas wells, which have decreased 73% during that period. The agency said it expects to see further reductions as its 2012 oil and gas standards are fully implemented.

Changes from 2012 to 2013 took place as US oil and gas production and refinery activity climbed, American Petroleum Institute officials told OGJ in response to the EPA report. “It all came against a backdrop of increased production and creating jobs in the US,” said Howard J. Feldman, API’s regulatory and scientific affairs director.

US upstream’s growth

Average US crude oil production climbed 14.6% to 7.45 million b/d in 2013 from 6.5 million b/d in 2012, while US gas production grew 1.5% year-to-year to 70.18 bcfd from 2012’s 69.15 bcfd, the US Energy Information Administration said in its Sept. 9 Short-Term Energy Outlook.

“The reason emissions from refineries were up 1.6% in 2013 is because refinery and blender net production was up 2.9% from 2012 to 2013,” API Chief Economist John C. Felmy separately told OGJ. EIA refinery and blender figures for the 2 years were an average 19.106 million b/d for 2013 and 18.564 million b/d for 2012 in EIA’s September STEO.

US gross domestic product for 2013 rose only 2.2% from 2012’s total, Felmy said. “This year, it’s been even more mixed because the first quarter was negative before bouncing back in the second,” he told OGJ. “It’s still a relatively weak recovery.”

Referring to the 73% drop in GHG emissions from fraced wells since 2011, Feldman said producers will finish implementing EPA’s regulation in January 2015, suggesting that 2014’s GHG emissions from the group will be even lower than 2013’s total.

“Refineries, even with this 1.6% increase, are still about 10% of what we’re looking at in power plants,” he said. “A lot of power plant emissions reductions in the last 2 decades have been due to increased natural gas use, which is helping electricity producers contribute to the reduction nationwide in GHG emissions.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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