Posts Tagged ‘GHG emissions’

The Nord Stream sabotage likely released more methane than the complete lifecycle of a GoM lease sale (upstream and downstream). Also, the Nord Stream explosions may have released more methane than is emitted by all US offshore producers in an entire year. Here are the numbers:

Source of MethaneCH4 emissions (1000s of tons)
Nord Stream (probable range)100-400
Nord Stream (maximum)500
Nord Stream – first 48 hrs (CAMS est)175
all US offshore production in 2020 (EPA)193
all US on- and offshore exploration in 2020 (EPA)12
lifecycle upstream emissions from a typical GoM lease sale (BOEM)118
lifecycle up- and downstream emissions from a typical GoM sale (BOEM)151

Finally, remember that offshore oil and gas leasing results in a net reduction in GHG emissions.

The No Leasing scenario results in roughly double the CO2e emissions for upstream activities compared to those of the Leasing scenario, given that, collectively, the substitute energy sources have higher GHG emissions per unit of production (also known as “GHG intensity”) compared to the forgone domestically produced OCS oil and natural gas of the Leasing scenario.


Even when mid- and downstream emissions are included, leasing is preferable to no leasing. See the table below from the BOEM report:

Bottom line: we need more energy leasing and less military aggression!

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When Congress seems slow to solve problems, it may be only natural that those in the Executive Branch might seek to take matters into their own hands. But the Constitution does not authorize agencies to use pen-and-phone regulations as substitutes for laws passed by the people’s representatives.

Justice Gorsuch in concurrence

Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible “solution to the crisis of the day.” New York v. United States, 505 U. S. 144, 187 (1992). But it is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d). A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.

Justice Roberts for the majority

At first glance, the SCOTUS decision would seem to affect the regulation of GHG emissions on the OCS and possibly the Lease Sale 257 decision (now being appeal), which was based on BOEM’s failure to estimate the effect of reduced OCS production on GHG emissions outside the US.

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The primary goal of energy policy should be ample, reliable supplies that are sufficient to ensure reasonable consumer prices. The “Backup Plan” (below) is only acceptable in cartoons.

From an offshore energy policy standpoint, remember this:

Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 257 was vacated on 1/27/2022 because DC Federal Court Judge Contreras ruled that BOEM failed to consider the “positive” effect that higher prices would have on reducing foreign consumption and the associated GHG emissions. Apparently the Court failed to consider that higher oil and gas prices would:

The Administration chose not to appeal that decision, although API and the State of Louisiana have. It has now been 575 days since the last Federal offshore oil and gas lease sale.

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With regard to air emissions, the advantages of deepwater Gulf of Mexico production are rather obvious:

  • High production rates per well
  • Few surface facilities (57 deepwater platforms, 3% of GoM total, produce 90+% of oil)
  • Modern gas turbines for power generation
  • Tightly enforced restrictions on flaring and venting
  • Better control of fugitive emissions
  • Distant from shore (not a factor for GHG effects)

Wood Mackenzie, NOIA, and others contend that restrictions on GoM leasing are contrary to carbon reduction goals.

An important and unintended consequence of enacting more restrictive policies such as a lease ban or increase in royalty rate in the Gulf of Mexico is that it could give rise to carbon leakage to countries that export crude to US.

Wood Mackenzie
Chart: Emissions intensity for US crude importers. US Gulf of Mexico deepwater emissions are less intensive than all but one importer.

In light of the policy implications of GHG emissions, a Carbon Intensity Workshop is highly recommended. The estimates generated by Wood Mackenzie, Rystad, and others need to be explored in depth. Is data quality an issue? How are the data verified? Is there regulator or third party oversight? What are the assumptions behind the estimates? Also, for the purposes of US policy decisions, product transportation emissions should certainly be included. A barrel produced in the Middle East is not the same as a barrel produced in the GoM.

Looking at the chart above, I have immediate questions about the drilling emissions (blue). What wells are included? What about workovers and other well operations? I’m surprised that the deepwater GoM drilling emissions are so high relative to the other regions. While dynamically positioned MODUs have high fuel consumption rates, deepwater wells are few in number relative to shale drilling. Also, why are Brazil’s drilling emissions, which I assume are primarily associated with deepwater operations, so much lower that those for the GoM.

BOEM/BSEE and/or the Gulf Research Program (NASEM) would seem to be good sponsors for such a workshop.

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The Department of the Interior (Interior) confirmed today that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has appealed the preliminary injunction entered by the district court in Louisiana v. Biden, which enjoined Interior from implementing the pause in new federal oil and gas leasing 

DOI statement 8/16/21

The day after the fall of Kabul and 5 days after the White House urged OPEC to increase production, DOI reiterated the Administration’s support for a pause in oil and gas leasing on Federal lands (including the OCS). Given the increased risk of long-term oil supply uncertainty, rigid support for a blanket leasing pause would not seem to be a prudent policy position at this time.

DOI argues that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be curtailed, but reductions in domestic production would increase the demand for imports with higher GHG intensity. Reductions in deepwater Gulf of Mexico production, which has low GHG intensity and other environmental advantages (few dispersed facilities distant from shore), would be particularly detrimental. Of course, any public policies that discourage natural gas production would also have distinct air emissions costs.

If supply restrictions increase the price of oil, net reductions in oil consumption and GHGs could be achieved. However, as evidenced by the recent appeal for increased OPEC production, higher oil prices are not consistent with Administration policy.

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