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DOE, EPA Announce $850 Million for Methane Emissions Monitoring and Mitigation

JUN 28, 2024
The action is the latest in the administration’s push to improve the accuracy of data on methane emissions.
Clare Zhang
Science Policy Reporter, FYI FYI
methane-flare

A natural gas flare from an oil field in Irion County, Texas. These flares release methane, a greenhouse gas with a high global warming potential.

Jonathan Cutrer

The Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency opened applications last week for $850 million in federal funding for projects that monitor or reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas sectors. Eligible uses of the funds include helping deploy commercially available technologies to reduce emissions, improving public access to emissions data, and ensuring nationwide data consistency of regional emissions measurements.

Of the various greenhouse gases, methane has been a top target of the Biden administration. Though methane made up only 11.1% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2022, compared to 79.7% for carbon dioxide, the global warming potential of methane is 25 times greater than that of the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, and 72 times greater over a 20-year period.

The $850 million in funding comes from the Methane Emissions Reduction Program created by the Inflation Reduction Act. The act also requires EPA to collect fees from petroleum and natural gas facilities that emit more than the equivalent of 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

Of the total funds, the agencies anticipate allocating about $100 million to projects developing consistent and accurate approaches to region-wide methane emission measurement and data dissemination. This includes improving emissions data associated with specific sources, such as distribution pipeline damage and natural gas venting, and drawing on both activity-based and atmospheric-based methane assessments to make more informed estimates.

Activity-based calculations estimate emissions by multiplying the frequency of an activity by a factor indicating how much methane the activity emits. Researchers are also developing estimation methods that use airborne or satellite measurements along with information about atmospheric transport and chemical processes. For instance, NASA has used a spectroscopy instrument on the International Space Station to help identify “super emitters” of methane.

The activity-based approach is more widely used but often underestimates in comparison to atmospheric-based approaches, according to a report released this February by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

The new methane funds are open to applications from groups in industry, academia, DOE national labs, state and local governments, Tribes, and non-governmental organizations. All applicants must demonstrate how they will engage with and benefit local communities.

Their projects will build on the National Strategy to Advance an Integrated U.S. Greenhouse Gas Measurement, Monitoring, and Information System, released by the White House late last year to identify means of improving coordination of data collection.

“There are a lot of different actors at the state and federal level that are looking at methane, but they have not been, at least not yet, creating a sum-greater-than-the-parts proposition by joining forces,” said William Collins, head of the Earth and Environmental Sciences Area at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, in an interview. Collins was a lead author of a 2022 joint report by the American Physical Society and Optica that emphasized the importance of nationwide coordination in improving methane emission measurements. (APS and Optica are AIP Member Societies.)

Collins said the new funding opportunity represents an important partnership between DOE and EPA. “The Department of Energy can bring to bear some really powerful measurement techniques that otherwise might not have been as easy for EPA to pursue in this context. It’s essentially science informing regulation in a way that we hope will be really promising going forward,” he said.

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