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NETL Collaborates with Industry to Improve the Understanding of Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Production and Delivery
Life Cycle Analysis Energy Sustainability

The Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) recently partnered with a natural gas industry consortium to help assess the efficiency of the consortium’s natural gas supply chain and additional methane emissions mitigation opportunities that could increase the efficiency of natural gas delivery.

The partnership involved NETL energy analysis experts, who conduct multi-disciplinary investigations of complex energy systems to facilitate improvements to the nation’s energy economy, energy supply security, and environmental performance.

Working with Our Nation’s Energy Future (ONE Future), a natural gas industry partnership dedicated to improving the efficiency of the natural gas supply chain, NETL’s efforts demonstrated how industry and government can work together to improve the understanding of methane emissions and identify potential reduction strategies that can improve the long-term operational efficiency of the nation’s natural gas production and delivery systems.

The NETL-ONE Future partnership demonstrated how industry and government can work together to:

  • Improve the collective understanding of methane emissions and the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory for the natural gas sector
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of emission reduction strategies
  • Identify ways that other operators can improve system efficiency.

Tim Skone of NETL’s Energy System Analysis Team explained that abundant shale gas development allowed the United States to develop oil and natural gas resources that can support both domestic energy needs and enable the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). Such efforts will move the nation closer to a broader policy goal of energy dominance, with economic, geopolitical, and environmental benefits while preventing methane leaks during production, transit, and use of produced natural gas.

NETL researchers, in their collaboration with ONE Future used their expertise in life-cycle analysis (LCA) to compare ONE Future member company’s methane performance to the U.S. national average for the industry. The results provide the current state of knowledge on methane emissions in an actionable form to improve the performance of U.S. natural gas production and delivery.

LCA examines the environmental, economic, and social attributes of energy systems ranging from the extraction of raw materials from the ground to the use of the energy carrier to perform work—the life cycle of a product. Results are used to evaluate energy options from a national perspective. NETL uses LCA as a tool for evaluating energy technology and policy options such as the environmental burdens of converting fuel to useful energy, infrastructure construction, extraction, and transport of the final energy product to the end user.

NETL’s LCA model is considered one of the most sophisticated energy models that, in combination with other analytical data, enables policymakers and the public to discern the impact of technology-policy choices.

Skone said there have been limited private-public partnerships that have provided information from a life-cycle perspective on methane emission mitigation opportunities. The work showed the value of this type of collaboration because NETL now has a better understanding of what types of processes are key contributors to supply chain energy consumption and product losses and how system variability can affect supply chain efficiency. 

The report, Industry Partnerships and Their Role in Reducing Natural Gas Supply Chain Greenhouse Gas Emissions, can be accessed on the NETL website under the Natural Gas heading at: