$50M partnership with UT Austin, CSU to tackle oil & gas greenhouse gas emissions accounting
Colorado School of Mines has partnered with the University of Texas at Austin and Colorado State University to stand up a new $50 million multidisciplinary research and education initiative that will address the growing need for accurate, timely and clear accounting of greenhouse gas emissions across global oil and natural gas supply chains.
Data and analysis from this major new endeavor will help both public and private institutions develop climate strategies and actions informed by accurate data, identifying both opportunities for emissions reductions and verification. The Energy Emissions Modeling and Data Lab (EEMDL) will be hosted at UT Austin.
Mines is one of the founding institutions of EEMDL and Dorit Hammerling, associate professor of applied mathematics and statistics, is one of the four leaders of the initiative. Hammerling will help lead several cutting-edge data science research tracks, while Morgan Bazilian, director of the Payne Institute for Public Policy, will work on policy and regulatory implications of these scientific results.
Collectively, Mines, CSU and UT Austin have conducted methane emissions measurements at more than 1,000 sites and published several dozen peer-reviewed studies.
“The complex data science aspects of emissions monitoring and measurement are still nascent, but we are making great strides in better informing decision makers in the U.S. and across the globe,” Hammerling said.
More than 100 countries, including the U.S. and members of the European Union, have pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030 as part of the Global Methane Pledge. EEMDL will provide analysis and datasets in support of the objectives of the Global Methane Pledge and work collaboratively with other methane initiatives. Recent regulations in the U.S., such as the Inflation Reduction Act and rules proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, mandate the development of measurement-based greenhouse gas emissions inventories. Domestic and international natural gas customers and the financial sector are asking for better accounting and transparency related to supply chains emissions.
EEMDL will work with stakeholders to establish comprehensive, reliable, transparent, measurement-based greenhouse gas emissions assessments of oil and gas supply chains. The research products – consisting of protocols, software tools and emissions datasets – will be updated regularly. The lab will also offer education and training programs to help oil and gas operators, government agencies and other stakeholders utilize the tools and data.
“We are thrilled to partner with UT and CSU on creating this world-class effort to address the critically important areas of supply chain transparency and methane emissions mitigation,” Bazilian said.
The $50 million EEMDL initiative is being led by Dave Allen and Arvind Ravikumar, faculty members in the UT Austin Cockrell School of Engineering. Several major energy companies that also are focusing on the accuracy of emissions data are sponsoring EEMDL. Cheniere, EQT, and Williams are the initial sponsors, with more stakeholders from the oil and gas industry, financial sector, and non-governmental organizations expected to join in the near future.
The first major initiatives will focus on methane emissions. Significant uncertainty remains about methane emissions from oil and gas supply chains, their locations and how emissions change over time. Accurate and real-time information about specific methane emissions is critical for prompt and cost-effective intervention and emissions reductions. More detailed mapping of oil and gas sector methane emissions can have a significant impact on global mitigation efforts.
“If you remove methane emissions from the global energy sector, you get a reduction in warming that is equivalent to taking more than a billion cars off the road,” said Allen, a professor in UT Austin’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering. “And it can be done much faster and often at a lower cost than other greenhouse gas reduction efforts.”
The efforts to build tools and data sets for methane accounting are already underway, and EEMDL will build on this work. In its first year, EEMDL will:
- Publish a U.S. Methane Census that integrates up-to-date measurement data across U.S. oil and gas operations. The census will be updated annually and will help serve as a benchmarking tool for various stakeholders.
- Develop emissions reconciliation and measurement integration protocols and tools that help companies close the gap between direct measurements and engineering estimates of emissions. This tool will integrate data from monitoring systems such as satellites, aerial flyovers, continuous monitors, and operational data.
- Create supply chain emissions analysis tools that provide estimates of methane emissions across individual oil and gas supply chains. Investors, customers, and the public can use this tool to better understand emissions associated with the production and transportation of oil and gas resources.
EEMDL researchers will publish peer-reviewed journal articles and reports aimed at educating U.S. and international regulatory agencies and analyze emissions data for participating companies. The researchers will work with Texas Engineering Executive Education to develop training and workforce development courses for the public. The inaugural course, Methane Emissions in the Natural Gas Supply Chain, will be held virtually March 22 and 24.
EEMDL’s first public event will be a virtual workshop to introduce EEMDL and to illustrate the use of tools and models to advance the characterization of methane emissions. This virtual workshop will take place at 10 a.m. CT/ 9 a.m. MT on Jan. 18 via Zoom and is open to the public. It will focus on the use of the Fugitive Emissions Abatement Simulation Tool (FEAST) model in the supplemental methane rule proposed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.