Methane regulations spur economic opportunities

By Dennis Webb 
Tuesday, November 10, 2015

SILT — Colorado’s new methane-emission rules in the oil and gas industry and similar rules being considered nationally are promising new economic opportunities for companies targeting those emissions.

That’s according to the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions, which recently was founded to help provide a voice for such businesses.

Already, 72 firms involved in such work are headquartered in the United States, with manufacturing, service and other operations based at 573 locations, Patrick Von Bargen, the center’s executive director, said Tuesday at a meeting of Garfield Clean Energy, a collaboration of local governments. Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado are the leading states for the industry, he said.

Part of the motivation for oil and gas producers, pipeline operators and others in the industry to try to reduce leaks is economic. The industry is the nation’s top source of human-caused methane emissions, he said.

“What that means to the industry is substantial lost revenues,” he said.

He estimated that loss at about $1.2 billion a year even at today’s low natural gas prices.

Methane also is a potent greenhouse gas, and typically leaks in combination with volatile organic compounds and other pollutants. With that in mind, Colorado’s Air Quality Control Commission last year passed what’s known as Regulation 7, imposing the nation’s first rules specifically targeting methane emissions by the industry. Now the Environmental Protection Agency and Bureau of Land Management are considering rules targeting methane at the national level.

“Colorado … is the leader in the country on this issue by passing and enacting Regulation 7. We’re paying real close attention to how that’s going because there are several rulemakings on the federal level,” Von Bargen said.

He said that, generally speaking, Colorado’s rules require inspections for leaks on a quarterly basis, and for leaks to be repaired within a specific time frame.

Jobs in leak detection and repair pay an average of about $31 an hour, he said. He said one company, FLIR Systems, opened a training facility in Oklahoma to train laid-off oil and gas workers to use infrared cameras to spot leaks.

Von Bargen said there are now nine service providers that do leak inspection work for smaller energy developers in Colorado. That eliminates the need for the companies to have to buy expensive infrared cameras themselves.

Jim Armstrong, with Apogee Scientific in Englewood, said his company offers a non-camera type of detection system that not only finds leaks of methane, total hydrocarbons and carbon dioxide, but can measure their concentrations. It’s already used in many applications, although it wasn’t approved for use under the new Colorado rules.

“It’s crazy because there are companies all over the country that are coming up with very innovative things, not just us,” he said.

Center for Methane Emissions Solutions helping Colorado decrease methane emissions waste


A group of companies from all over Colorado are banding together to help reduce methane emissions waste across the state.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane is the second most predominant greenhouse gas emitted from human activities in the U.S. Greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere that can cause concerns for the environment. The Center for Methane Emissions Solutions is a group of companies working to reduce methane in Colorado by using what's called a leak detection system. Companies in this organization say detecting leaks provides a lot of benefits to the community.

"It benefits us by improving the air quality, by providing resources back to the community, and providing jobs to the community," said Jim Armstrong, president of Apogee Scientific.

"The methane mitigation industry hires lots of people to do leak detection and repair," said Patrick Von Bargen, executive director for the Center for Methane Emissions Solutions.

According to the E.P.A., methane emissions can be caused by wetlands, natural gas systems, and raising of livestock.

Colorado ranks third in the nation for the emerging methane mitigation industry.

Companies in this organization work directly with distribution pipeline companies right here in Grand Junction to prevent methane leaks.

Colorado Companies Step Up to Stop Methane Waste

DENVER – Companies in the business of capturing lost methane, the primary component of natural gas, are taking their show on the road this week to present to local officials on Colorado's Western Slope.

Jim Armstrong, co-founder and president of Apogee Scientific, says the nation loses over $1 billion of methane gas every year due to faulty equipment, or venting and flaring at oil and gas well sites.

Armstrong's company specializes in a new mobile infrared technology that can detect emissions from up to 100 feet away. He says it's good business to find methane leaks.

"If you find the leaks, you're saving yourself product," he says. "It just has plusses to it. It's one of the few pollution control areas where, as you find the leaks, you're actually saving money."

Armstrong cites an ICF International report that says reducing methane waste is not only cost-effective, but also translates into net profits for energy producers. He says Colorado currently ranks third in the nation's growing methane-mitigation industry, with more than 40 companies at work cutting pollution.

The Bureau of Land Management and Environmental Protection Agency are both considering regulations on methane pollution. Armstrong says if cutting waste becomes standard operating procedure for oil and gas producers, the mitigation sector could boom – leading to more jobs that pay well.

Armstrong adds that reducing waste isn't just good for the economy, it could also make a difference in slowing climate change.

"We all hear about carbon dioxide being a greenhouse gas," he says. "Well, methane is 80 times greater, according to EPA studies, than CO2 in capturing heat, and therefore, affecting the environment."

According to the Environmental Defense Fund, rules passed last year in Colorado limiting methane waste are projected to reduce more than 100,000 tons of methane and some 90,000 tons of smog-forming pollutants each year. That's equal to the amount produced by all the cars and trucks in the state.

Armstrong says it's one more reason to stop methane pollution.

Jeff Cramer
38 North Solutions
(direct) 202-524-8805