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New report finds gap between leaders and laggards on methane emissions widens, underscores importance of new regulations

June 3, 2024 Work Area: Methane

Annual report remains the only analysis that allows stakeholders to compare the relative emissions intensity and total reported methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide emissions of more than 300 U.S. oil and gas producers. 

Ceres and Clean Air Task Force, with analysis from ERM, today released the fourth annual report, Benchmarking Methane and other Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Oil and Natural Gas Production in the United States, which analyzes the production-based emissions of the largest oil and gas producers in the United States for 2022 and includes trends for 2015-2022. It finds dramatic variation in producer performance and a downward trend in overall reported sectoral methane emissions. This downward trend can in part be attributed to state and federal regulations that have been enacted to date. Recent action by EPA and Congress, including both the recently finalized methane standards and the forthcoming Waste Emission Charge on excess methane emissions, will help drive sector emissions even lower.  

Key findings include: 

  • Reported methane and greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity in the oil and gas sector declined by 31% and 17%, respectively, between 2020 and 2022 reflecting implementation of 2016 federal rules and strong state regulations.  
  • Total reported methane emissions have declined since 2019, while total reported CO2 emissions have plateaued since 2020 but are higher than 2015 levels.  
  • Methane emissions intensity of natural gas production and the GHG emissions intensity of oil and gas production vary dramatically across producers.  
  • For example, natural gas producers in the highest quartile of methane emissions intensity have an average emissions intensity nearly 32 times higher than producers in the lowest quartile. 

“Much has changed since we released the first methane benchmarking analysis in 2021,” said Andrew Logan, Senior Director at Ceres. “Satellites, airplanes, and drones now allow us to measure some methane emissions directly; new regulations at both the state and federal level are forcing improvements in operator efficiency; and efforts like the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership have raised the bar for best practice.  All of this, our report shows, has led to material drops in oil and gas methane intensity over the past several years. However, our annual analysis has also shown a massive gap in performance between leaders and laggards—and this year, the gap is even wider. This trend makes clear that a company’s climate impact is a direct result of operational and investment decisions within its control. For the poorest-performing operators, high leak rates are a choice. We hope that, as the EPA’s methane rule is implemented over coming years, this choice will no longer remain an option.” 

A number of factors impact the total amount of methane emissions from oil and gas sites, including equipment choices and operational practices. For example: 

  • Pneumatic controllers were the largest source of total reported production-segment methane emissions, making up 67% of total reported methane emissions. EPA’s 2016 new source rule prohibited the use of “high bleed” controllers at new sites. 
  • Emissions from hydraulic fracturing completions and workovers declined 73% between 2015 and 2022, largely due to regulations prohibiting venting during these wellsite events and instead requiring Reduced Emission Completions. 

In contrast, CO2 emissions have not declined in the same way methane emissions have. EPA regulations will likely reduce CO2 emissions from flaring, but combustion emissions, the largest portion of CO2 emissions, have continued to go up as oil and gas production has increased over the 2015-2022 period. 

“We are starting to see the trend of good regulations driving decreased oil and gas methane emissions, but our analysis also demonstrates there is much work still to be done to reduce methane emissions, highlighting the importance of swift and full implementation of EPA’s recently finalized regulations,” said Lesley Feldman, Research and Analysis Manager at Clean Air Task Force. “For example, for the first time, existing sources will be addressed by state or federal plans based on EPA’s existing source guidelines, and EPA’s eventual implementation of the Waste Emissions Charge will incentivize producers to adopt such controls. The nearly 32-fold difference in methane emissions between the highest and lowest quartiles of natural gas producers exemplifies the gap between companies using best practices and those that aren’t. That gap can only be remedied by implementing standards like EPA’s recent regulations, which can ensure that all operators minimize emissions.” 

The report is informed by data submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It does not account for orphan wells or large release events (also known as “super-emitters”), which are major contributors to total emissions. Rather, it is designed to provide an analysis of publicly available, equipment-level data that can be applied consistently, enabling comparison of performance over years and across companies. Large-release events comprise a significant quantity of total industry methane emissions, which makes it important for companies and regulators to aggressively pursue innovation and adoption of technology that will allow their direct measurement and remediation; the recently finalized addition of the Other Large Release Events emission category in the GHG Reporting Program is a first step. 

The report is a collaborative effort between Ceres and the Clean Air Task Force, with support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.  

Full interactive datasets are available at ERM, which provides strategic consulting services to support the transition to a net-zero emissions economy, performed the analysis using data from EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. 

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and reducing emissions from oil and gas operations is one of the most impactful actions available to help limit the effects of climate change. New EPA standards and guidelines, along with the soon-to-be-implemented Waste Emissions Charge, further strengthen the case for action,” said Robert LaCount, ERM’s Climate Change lead for North America. “With data going back to 2015, this analysis provides a valuable resource to help operators, natural gas purchasers, and other stakeholders benchmark and analyze oil and gas producer emissions.” 

Contatto con la stampa 

Steve Reyes, Communications Manager, CATF, [email protected], +1 562-916-6463 

Informazioni su Ceres 

Ceres is a nonprofit advocacy organization working to accelerate the transition to a cleaner, more just, and sustainable world. United under a shared vision, our powerful networks of investors and companies are proving sustainability is the bottom line — changing markets and sectors from the inside out. For more information, visit 

About CATF 

Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With more than 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world. Visit and follow @cleanaircatf

About ERM 

Sustainability is our business.    

As the world’s largest specialist sustainability consultancy, ERM partners with clients to operationalize sustainability at pace and scale, deploying a unique combination of strategic transformation and technical delivery capabilities. This approach helps clients to accelerate the integration of sustainability at every level of their business.    

With more than 50 years of experience, ERM’s diverse team of 8000+ experts in 40 countries and territories helps clients create innovative solutions to their sustainability challenges, unlocking commercial opportunities that meet the needs of today while preserving opportunity for future generations.  Learn more here.    

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