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Mexico Takes a Giant Leap Forward in Regulating Methane Emissions

November 13, 2018 Work Area: Methane

On Tuesday, November 6, at the same time that Americans were going to the polls to register their sentiments about the Trump Administration and in part, its abominable environmental record, Mexico took a huge step forward for the planet in publishing its final regulations on curbing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.  When implemented, emissions in this sector will be reduced by 75% by 2025, far exceeding a pledge signed at the North American Leaders Summit in 2015 by President Obama, Premier Trudeau and President Peña-Nieto. These reduction levels will place Mexico in the very forefront of the worldwide effort to address global climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is truly gratifying and welcome news as we at CATF have been working with our ASEA, the Mexican government’s regulatory authority for oil and gas, on this issue for over two years to craft common-sense and achievable regulations, proposed in July of this year, to forcefully address the methane problem.

“In the world of climate change, so seldom do we get to celebrate a success story,” said Jonathan Banks, Senior Climate Policy Advisor at CATF. “Mexico’s efforts to combat methane pollution from oil and gas give us a reason to have hope again.”

The standards include:

  • Quarterly leak detection and repair using optical gas imaging or other approved technologies. LDAR is a proven system for quickly and economically finding both small and large leaks in the system, which can dramatically reduce emissions and the waste of natural gas;
  • Moving from high-bleed pneumatics to low and zero bleed pneumatics.  Pneumatic devices are ubiquitous in the oil and gas industry, and by design they release natural gas into the air.  New technologies are available to dramatically reduce or eliminate these emissions;
  • Use of Vapor Recovery Systems (VRS) for tanks holding oil or water, to capture the gas that bubbles out of these liquids;
  • Compressor stations will be required to either retrofit to reduce emissions from compressor seals or route all emissions to a VRS;
  • Requirements for less wasteful practices for liquids unloading and pipelines;
  • Requirements for Reduced Emission Completions (RECs) at shale gas and shale oil wells. When shale gas and oil wells are completed, a large amount of fluids, sand, and gas must be removed from the well before it can start producing. In the past, this has been a huge source of methane emissions. RECs however can reduce those emissions by more than 90%;
  • In addition, the proposal requires new reporting and monitoring to ensure the effectiveness of the policies and to evaluate its success.

So at a time when Mexico’s neighbor to the north is disgracefully forfeiting our position of global leadership on climate change, thankfully other countries are stepping up. The examples set by Mexico and Canada, which finalized its regulations in April and is now working with the provinces on implementation, are spurring a number of other countries in Latin America to follow suit. We are also working with a number of other countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia towards the same objective. The long-term goal for CATF is to replicate these successes around the world and achieve substantial methane emissions globally. With its announcement, Mexico can now proudly point the way.

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