Collaborative Research

Methane Emissions

Methane is the primary component of natural gas and a greenhouse gas when emitted to the atmosphere. Understanding the sources of methane emissions and implementing measures to reduce or recover is important to achieve the environmental, economic, and operational benefits of natural gas as a clean burning fossil fuel. New research is taking place to better understand the natural gas industry’s methane emissions beyond data already collected and reported through EPA programs.

With various government and academic reports estimating a wide range of leak rates, in 2012 the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) organized a collaborative effort to better understand and quantify methane loss across the U.S. natural gas supply chain. Williams actively participated in this effort in collaboration with Colorado State University and peer companies. Specifically, Williams was a collaborating partner in both the gathering and processing and transmission and storage studies. Details of the studies are provided on Colorado State University’s website.

Subsequent to the EDF-sponsored methane studies, the Department of Energy initiated an effort to build on issues identified by the EDF results. This study is led by Colorado State University and has partnered with eight industry members, including Williams. The culmination of these methane studies will enable the industry to better understand the source and magnitude of methane emissions across the value chain.

While research efforts are improving industry and government understanding of emissions, Williams has continued to support efforts to reduce emissions. For example, Williams has participated in the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program since its founding in 1993. This program facilitates sharing of technologies and work practices to reduce methane emissions. This program has led to meaningful methane emissions reductions through practices such as performance-based rod packing monitoring/replacement and pressure reductions ahead of blowdowns.