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BP announces methane measures as Trump administration rolls back regulations

Highlights

BP to use latest tech to reduce methane emissions

Trump administration working to rescind Obama-era regulations

Majors, small producers at odds over future methane rules

Washington — As the Trump administration works to roll back all federal methane emissions regulations for the oil and natural gas sector, BP announced Tuesday a global program to continuously measure methane emissions from its future oil and gas processing projects.

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The effort, which includes use of gas cloud imaging, drones, and multi-spectral flare combustion cameras, is aimed at lowering methane intensity in BP's upstream projects by 0.2% and "represents a major step-change in the oil and gas industry's approach to detecting, quantifying and reducing methane emissions," the company said in a statement.

"For gas to play its fullest role in the energy transition, we have to keep it in the pipe," Gordon Birrell, BP's COO for production, said in a statement. "The faster and more accurately we can identify and measure leaks, the better we can respond and, informed by the data collected, work to prevent them."

The technology BP plans to use to detect methane leaks has dropped inspection times from seven days to 30 minutes, Morag Watson, BP's vice president of digital innovation, said.

BP and other oil and gas majors, including ExxonMobil, Shell and Equinor, have recently resisted efforts by the Trump administration to rescind methane regulations on oil and gas operations developed during the Obama administration.

"We have to reduce methane emissions for natural gas to realize its full potential in our energy mix," Susan Dio, BP America chairman and president, said in a statement.

On August 29, the US Environmental Protection Agency unveiled its proposal to formally rescind regulations aimed at limiting methane emissions from oil and gas operations, largely deferring regulation to states.

Nearly a year ago, the Interior Department finalized a rule rolling back some of the requirements for methane emissions from oil and gas operations on federal lands. Environmental groups have sued Interior claiming the agency illegally rescinded these requirements.

While the majors can oppose these efforts, operators of low producing wells, known as marginal or stripper wells, would likely be driven out of business by strict methane regulations, according to Lee Fuller, executive vice president of the Independent Petroleum Association of America.

Fuller said operators of marginal wells, which account for about 75% of wells in the US, but only 10% of overall oil output, see equipment such as low-bleed pneumatic controllers and vapor recovery on tanks as prohibitively expensive. US marginal wells produce, on average, about 2.5 b/d, Fuller said.

The majors' "ability to absorb those costs is certainly higher," Fuller said in an interview with the Platts Capitol Crude podcast. "They're being drive as much by... external pressures from their shareholders, to be active in this arena, as they are by regulation."

-- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Richard Rubin, newsdesk@spglobal.com