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SWN is a proponent of innovative, performance-based programs to address methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector. The company is increasingly recognized as a leader in helping the natural gas industry pursue methane emission reductions through science-based research.

Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a short-lived, high-global-warming potential greenhouse gas (GHG) when emitted. Excessive methane leakage can partially offset the benefits of natural gas as a lower-carbon fossil fuel.

Emission-Reduction Efforts

SWN’s operating and maintenance program focuses on product delivery efficiency – that is, minimizing the loss of natural gas and oil. Field personnel visit each SWN facility at least once a week, at which time leaks can be identified and addressed, if not already identified through remote monitoring.

In addition, we have been proactive in addressing methane emissions through several voluntary efforts. First, we engaged with the scientific community and technology vendors to assess our methane emissions profile. These studies led us to deploy a companywide leak detection and repair (LDAR) program, beginning in 2014, using cutting-edge leak detection equipment, as a complement to our regular operation and maintenance practices. The LDAR program includes annual instrument surveys (using optical gas imaging cameras or laser-based analyzers), leak detection surveys, leak repairs, re-surveys and recordkeeping sufficient to track and trend leaks. We also utilize Bacharach Hi-Flow measurement devices to quantify the emissions detected. Together, our operating and maintenance practices and our LDAR program have led to a significant reduction in leaks over time.

SWN has engaged in field trials to evaluate new and emerging methane emission-detection technologies. And we are participating in the Environmental Defense Fund’s Methane Detector Challenge and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) MONITOR program run by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop low-cost methane sensors.

Natural Gas STAR Also, SWN participates in the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program, which encourages companies to voluntarily recover or reduce methane emissions. Our cumulative reported reductions since beginning that program in 2006 are more than 44 billion cubic feet.

ONE Future Coalition

One Future CoalitionTo help address methane emissions across the natural gas value chain, we cofounded the Our Nation’s Energy (ONE) Future coalition [link to case study], which in 2016 was accepted as part of the Methane Challenge program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). ONE Future seeks to reduce emissions to an average annual leak/loss rate of no more than 1 percent of gross U.S. natural gas production by 2025. (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated the industry’s leak/loss rate for 2014 – the most recent year available – at 1.62 percent.)

SWN believes ONE Future will help to ensure a long-term role for natural gas in a future low-carbon economy. It enables companies all along the natural gas value chain to be responsive to stakeholders, including the investment community, minimizes regulatory and reputational risks, and unlocks incentives for innovation.

Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Oil and Gas Methane Partnership

SWN has joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, an international effort sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. Participants share best practices for controlling and reducing emissions from certain sources (e.g., venting and flaring during the completion process). Government entities look to the CCAC for guidance when establishing national policies and regulations on methane emissions.

Supporting Research

SWN participates in and helps to fund multi-party research aimed at progressing scientific knowledge, developing sound data and testing cutting-edge technologies. We often provide access to SWN operating sites, which enables researchers to obtain robust, real-world data and a clear picture of actual operating practices. We believe this kind of research can support the development of effective and science-based policies and practices – for our operations and the industry. Recent examples include:

  • DOE Study Reconciling Top-Down and Bottom-Up Methane Emissions. We participated in a field-measurement methane study in the Fayetteville Shale region involving the DOE, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines. The study results – to be published in 2017 in peer-reviewed journals – will provide insight to the complexities surrounding methane emission measurement from oil and gas operations.
  • Optical Sensors Development. We have been working with an IBM-led research team, funded by the DOE’s ARPA-E program, to develop a new, low-cost optical sensors network that will enable enhanced methane leak detection.