Appalachian Methane Initiative Completes 2023 Pilot Program, Plans for 2024

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The Appalachian Methane Initiative (AMI) found that non-oil and gas operations are the largest contributors of methane emissions in the pilot program, and in 2024 it will expand its monitoring area to more than 20,000 sq. mi. in the Appalachian Basin.

AMI released the metrics and progress from its 2023 pilot methane emissions monitoring program that surveyed more than 1,700 gas facilities and 60 non-gas facilities in the Appalachian Basin.

Key results from the 2023 pilot program in the surveyed region include:

  • For on-pad gas operations, condensate tanks and compressors were among the largest sources of methane emissions. AMI conducted causal analysis investigations of each source to leverage the data for emissions-reduction efforts.
  • Non-oil and gas operations represent the largest contribution to as-measured methane emissions in the program’s pilot region: 76% in Q2, 53% in Q3, and 73% in Q4.
  • Coal-mine operations, such as coal mine vents or direct emissions from the mine, are the largest single contributor to total emissions. Individual emitters from coal mine vents exhibited emissions over 5,000 kg/h, which is higher than the largest observed emissions rate from oil and gas sources.
  • AMI supplemented aerial measurements with operational data to ensure accurate data inventories. Some captured emissions events displayed significant temporal variability, specifically in oil and gas, and without operational information, inaccurate emissions estimates may be obtained.

AMI, founded by Chesapeake Energy, EQT Corp., and Equitrans Midstream in 2023, conducted aerial surveys, onsite monitoring, and advanced reporting frameworks, covering approximately 1,100 square miles of the basin. This included gas production facilities representing approximately 5.8 billion cubic feet per day (bcf/d) of capacity in 2023.

“The Appalachian Methane Initiative is an example of a successful cooperative and transparent approach to addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector,” said Arvind Ravikumar, a faculty member of the Hildebrand Department of Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and an EEMDL Co-Director. “By ensuring that data are collected, analyzed, and reported by an independent academic institution, AMI seeks to model the level of transparency and scientific rigor necessary to compete in a global market looking for low emission natural gas.”

AMI is an initiative to advance methane emissions monitoring to facilitate further methane-emission reductions in the Basin. The program contracted Bridger Photonics and ChampionX for methane surveys, SLR International for strategic consulting, and the Energy Emissions Modeling and Data Lab (EEMDL) to lead scientific analysis. EEMDL is a consortium based out of the University of Texas at Austin with cooperation from Colorado State University and the Colorado School of Mines.

AMI announced plans for a 2024 expansion:

  • Plans to monitor more than 20,000 square miles of the Appalachian Basin, including gas production facilities with 31.5 bcf/d of production capacity.
  • The new coverage area represents 90% of the daily production in the Basin—nearly six times the volume monitored in 2023.
  • Oil and gas monitoring will increase from approximately 600 to more than 6,000 sites, and non-oil and gas sites, such as coal mines, vents, and landfills, will increase from 21 to 181.

New 2024 AMI members will include Ascent Resources, CNX Resources, MPLX LP, and Seneca Resources with hopes of increasing the 2024 campaign footprint, with quarterly surveys currently in the process.

“An independent measurement, monitoring, and reporting framework form the bedrock of global efforts to transparently and rapidly reduce methane emissions,” said Ravikumar. “Together with the ability to use upcoming satellite technologies for emissions verification, AMI demonstrates a scalable pathway to comprehensively address fugitive methane emissions within the next decade.”

As mentioned by Ravikumar, aerial methane emissions monitoring can be enhanced by satellite technologies. Recently, SpaceX launched the MethaneSAT emissions monitor into orbit above Earth, detecting and quantifying methane emissions over large surface regions. It will circle the Earth 15 times a day and can measure changes in methane concentrations as small as three parts per billion.