Skip to main content

Carbon Limits Leaks Interim Report (Prepublication Draft)

December 10, 2013

About 30% of the US anthropogenic methane emissions originate from the oil and gas sector. Emissions are partly leaks and partly engineered vents. According to data presented by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 16% of the methane emissions in the onshore production sector are leaks, which here means fugitive leaks past static seals such as on valves, connectors, regulators, or other components. This report presents results from an empirical analysis of real data on the costs and benefits of leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs for oil and gas sector leaks. LDAR programs at oil and gas facilities, in this case using infrared cameras, detect sources of gas emissions, which in addition to methane include volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Once emission rates are measured or estimated, repairs can be conducted, reducing emissions by 90% or more. The economic merits of a LDAR program depend on the amount and value of the gas otherwise leaked and the costs of the LDAR program, comprising both survey and repair costs.

The analysis presented is based on data from 4,293 surveys of oil and gas facilities in USA and Canada. These surveys identified 58,421 components, which were either leaking or venting gas; leaks were detected from 39,505 components. A database has been populated with information on gas emission rates, repair costs, and repair lifetime for each emission source, in addition to average survey costs. This database allows calculation of the costs and benefits of LDAR programs with various designs, which is the main product of this work.