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Energy & Environment

Oil Driller Statoil Looks For Ways To Plug Methane Leaks

Earlier this month, the Obama administration proposed new rules to dramatically reduce air pollution from oil and gas wells. Some companies are already looking for ways to cut their losses.



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flare burning at drilling site in DeWitt County
A flare burns at a drilling site in DeWitt County.

It’s a big irony: natural gas — when used in power plants or vehicles — burns cleaner than coal or diesel. But when the wells are being drilled to get the gas out of the ground, the well-sites themselves leak so much natural gas — or methane — that they’re becoming the biggest industrial source of greenhouse gases linked to smog.

“Statoil takes the issue of methane emissions seriously,” said Nate Teti, head of Sustainability at Norwegian company Statoil at its office in Houston.

“We’re working in the Eagle Ford to implement a methane reduction program,” Teti said.

The Eagle Ford is the super-hot oil and gas play south of San Antonio. Statoil and GE announced they’re working on ways to reduce those methane leaks using infrared cameras to find them and new, higher tech valves to reduce them.

Environmentalists have been calling on industry to do just that. They point to how some bankers on Wall Street are now voicing support for the new federal rules to make drillers cut emissions. Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein spoke recently on PBS’s Charlie Rose.

“You want to incentivize people to invest in sensible projects that are done in the most environmentally safe way,” Blankfein said.

He said it would be a hollow victory if the drilling industry blocked the new rules, saying that in the long run, the industry knows it’s going to have to do it the right way.

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