Methane leakage in the oil and gas sector represents two things: lost revenue and increased financial risk.
Oil and gas companies leaking, venting and flaring methane is, in most cases, a very significant operational inefficiency that impacts their bottom line. Methane is natural gas, and the more natural gas that oil and gas companies keep in their pipes, the more product they sell. In fact, the measures required to mitigate methane emissions can have extremely substantial returns on investment.
I have been working in the field for several years helping companies minimize methane loss and maximize efficiency. By using advanced data analysis tools and innovative technologies and partnering with forward-leaning energy companies to optimize operations and minimize methane gas emissions, we have demonstrated substantial financial returns while simultaneously reducing risk. The companies we work with have taken proactive steps to address methane loss because they know reducing leaks ultimately increases financial returns, enables brand and product differentiation, and reduces overall downside risk.
Increasingly, investors, power generators, utilities, manufacturers and their customers are demanding information related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) risk. These metrics are becoming more and more mainstream and being incorporated into measures of overall company financial health. ESG information is having a bigger and bigger impact on a company’s access to and cost of capital as well the ability to attract the top millennial and executive talent.
This trend is seen in the O&G sector and is benefiting the industry in our neighboring states like Colorado and Wyoming. These states have taken proactive measures to reduce the industry’s methane emissions. Throughout the oil and gas downturn, the industry has stayed relatively strong in Colorado, especially as compared to New Mexico. In fact, just last December, BP announced it was moving its lower 48 regional headquarters from Houston to Denver. Additionally, because of economic opportunity, quality of life and ESG marking at all levels, Colorado added over 180,000 people to the state, with migration accounting for two-thirds of the growth between July 2014 and July 2016. Conversely, New Mexico has lost thousands of working professionals to neighboring states and only realized a marginal population increase due to birth rates.
Congressional leaders are debating a potential repeal of current policies that require oil and gas companies to capture methane and deliver it to market rather than allow it to leak, vent or be burned into the atmosphere. A repeal wouldn’t just cost New Mexico jobs in the methane mitigation industry, it would also hurt the state fiscally. Studies show that if New Mexico’s methane leakage were captured and sold, it would generate millions more in profits for producers and millions more in royalties and tax revenue to fund state needs like education, roads and health care.
A repeal would leave the state without a backstop, without a foundation for New Mexico producers and support companies to build and innovate upon. Meantime, our neighboring state to the north will continue to differentiate itself and outmaneuver New Mexico in attracting top companies and talent.
By capturing and monetizing methane, New Mexico oil and gas producers can increase revenue streams and decrease their risk profile. Further, reducing methane loss from New Mexico’s public lands carries the benefit of returning more royalty revenues to local communities.
Politicians, energy companies, technology innovators and other stakeholders can work together to find solution that work for everyone. Regulation for regulation’s sake is a bad idea. Rules that result in increased revenue, decreased risk and additional funding for our local communities makes sense. The BLM methane waste rule is one such rule.
Jason Libersky is the CEO of Quantigy, a methane mitigation company based out of Albuquerque.