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Air quality experts find oil and gas industry ready for best practices but lacking mandates to act

BPM Emissions

Ohio University researchers have found that when it comes to air emissions and effects of best management practices (BMPs) at oil and gas production sites in the Northern Appalachian Basin, it’s economics, voluntary programs, and BMPs developed by the industry – in part a response to uncertainty in federal and state regulations – that are the major pathways for currently addressing methane emissions. However, they might not adequately meet future challenges.

Serving the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the research team was led by Michael Zimmer, executive in residence and senior fellow at the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs; with Kevin Crist, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of the Center for Air Quality in the Russ College of Engineering and Technology, and Saikat Ghosh, research engineer.

Combining interviews and emissions modeling, the team learned that most federal and state regulatory agencies haven’t been charged with taking coordinated steps to actively minimize emissions of greenhouse gases such as methane. Instead, voluntary BMPs and programs for individual companies continue to grow in the marketplace. Stakeholder survey results suggest that some companies won’t fully comply or participate unless certain activities are required—or enforced.

“The oil and gas industry can achieve a 75 percent reduction in methane emissions with technologies commercially available today. Almost two-thirds of these technologies can be deployed at no net costs to industry,” Zimmer said. “These technologies and increased digitalization will all be critical building blocks for decarbonization in the future.”