Responsibly sourced gas (RSG) producers are seeing an uplift in price per thousand cubic feet where they’ve negotiated contracts directly with the buyer, particularly gas utilities. Otherwise, there isn’t a publicly posted price, such as a “Green Henry Hub” futures contract or a “Carbon-Neutral NYC Gate.”
“And the reason for that is because this business is new,” Toby Rice, EQT Corp. president and CEO, said. “The value of RSG is still getting sorted out.”
Eventually, one will likely come. “Producers will be able to get a premium based on the carbon efficiency of your gas versus your run-of-the-mill, non-certified natural gas,” he said.
At some 5.5 Bcf/d, EQT is the largest U.S. natural gas producer—all from the Appalachian Basin.
While the premium EQT is seeing for directly negotiated deals for its RSG is pennies today, he added, “it could be more than just a couple pennies” one day. “I wouldn’t say it would be dollars, but that price will be determined by what price of carbon you want to set.”
The Low Carbon Fuel Standards Act lays out a carbon-intensity (CI) score. “The lower the score, the greater the credits you can generate from that product,” Rice said. If EQT’s methane has a CI of 10 and the average for methane is 15, there will be an uplift in the Btu value.
Demand for RSG is growing quickly, and EQT is responding with supply. “We are going to be in a position later this year to have more than 4 Bcf/d of RSG product to put into the market.”
David Elkin, executive vice president and COO of Haynesville-focused Vine Energy Inc., said, “We’re aware of at least a couple of those [green gas] contracts.” Buyers are interested in certified green fuels “to try and differentiate themselves as being cleaner than the other guy.”
But many prospective buyers—particularly smaller utilities—have rates approved by a state utility commission. “So, if they’re going to make that push [to premium fuel], they’ve got to get that built into their rate base.
“I think that there are a lot of utilities that are currently trying to push that through their regulating body.”
Vine, which produces some 1 Bcf/d from the dry gas Haynesville, is talking to gas buyers it is connected to throughout the southeastern U.S. “They’re bigger and have more capacity to make this kind of deal,” Elkin said.
Brian Woodard, director, government and regulatory affairs, for Chesapeake Energy Corp., said, “We have had a few marketing agreements that yielded a minor premium.”
At press time, Chesapeake and Vine were in a deal to merge. Chesapeake produces some 1.8 Bcf/d from Appalachia and the Haynesville. Upon bringing in Vine’s portfolio, it will produce some 2.8 Bcf/d from the two plays.
But, he added, the effort to produce 100% RSG from its gas assets is about corporate responsibility and not “just to get a certificate hanging on the wall and receive a premium.
“That’s not what this is about for us. It’s to assure we’re minimizing emissions so that our business is not only sustainable, but it’s sustainable for providing natural gas well into the future.”
Besides, premiums may not last anyway, Woodard said: Gas producers that don’t catch up might be discounted instead.
“You may be deducted from a spot price based on attributes of the volume,” Woodard said. “We want to make sure that our volumes are certified early so we can continue to sustain our gas sales, both domestically and abroad.”
In Chesapeake’s operations in the Eagle Ford Shale and in northeastern Wyoming, the product is primarily oil. But Chesapeake is applying similar earnestness in zeroing its emissions there, he said. “We’re taking a different approach in these assets, but the goal remains of deploying new technology and innovation to control our emissions in these plays.”
Paul Ulrich, vice president, government and regulatory affairs for Jonah Energy LLC, said RSG is an emerging market.
“Buyers should consider rewarding responsible producers that can demonstrate low-carbon gas as part of a lower-carbon energy market, and we are positioned to be a part of the solution.”
Jonah produces about a half-Bcf/d from the dry gas Jonah Field of western Wyoming, Ulrich said. “If you look at some of the policies on the West Coast—banning natural gas in buildings, citing climate effects, etc.—it poses a very interesting challenge for the natural gas industry.”
Otherwise, Reuters reported in June, “Not many customers have been willing to pay [a] premium.”
Chris Kalnin, CEO of Appalachian and Barnett gas producer BKV Corp., said the biggest gas buyers have taken up net-zero emissions targets. “But it is not being translated [to their] procurement departments,” he told Reuters.
Cheniere Energy Inc. said certified gas may become required, rather than an exception, in the future. “We don’t expect to pay a premium; we don’t expect to collect a premium,” Anatol Feygin, Cheniere executive vice president and chief commercial officer, told Reuters.
French utility Engie SA walked away in November from continuing negotiations as an anchor LNG purchaser from NextDecade Corp., developer of an export terminal in Brownsville, Texas.
Engie provided no statement other than that it had decided not to proceed, according to S&P Global Platts. Speculation is that French officials deemed it “dirty gas” as the Brownsville terminal’s feedstock is expected to come from the oil-focused Permian Basin and Eagle Ford.
As LNG destination countries apply standards to the gas’ background, “we’re now certainly seeing the evolution of differentiated gas or responsibly sourced gas,” Chesapeake’s Woodard said.
Currently, is there a way for LNG buyers to identify the molecules’ pedigree? Woodard said pedigree is going the way of certified volumes being listed and marketed on digital registries.
“So the certified volumes are graded, registered, transacted upon and retired. There’s going to be more evolution in the standardization of the transactions from a producer to an end user and the unique attributes or certification and gradation ascribed to a registered volume, if you will.”
In this, there is a volume that, upon delivery, is digitally retired. It’s similar to the digital identity of crypto coin.
So crypto gas, then? Woodard laughed. “Well, I mean, it can be equated to things like crypto,” he said. “It’s very much like the carbon-offset market, too, that also has registries for which volumes are transacted and sold upon.”
Proving the pedigree of methane molecules can be likened to the response to growth in the past few decades of demands for organic food, he added. “People started to want to know more about their food and the associated food-supply chain.
“And we saw the evolution of ‘USDA organic.’ People know they’re getting a differentiated product. This is what we’re seeing at a different scale around responsibly sourced natural gas.”
Gas buyers are beginning to request certified volumes having certain attributes. “Key among which would be that the molecule has been produced in a manner where a third-party validation can support it has a low methane intensity,” Woodard said.
Houston-based startup Topl already enables certification of the environmental, as well as social and governance, pedigree of cocoa beans, particularly that the farm pays workers a living wage. Another platform verifies the pedigrees of conflict-free gemstones.
In partnerships, it expects to soon launch proof of provenance and proof of data for other commodities. “These products will include, for example, digital LNG and nature-based carbon,” a spokesman told Oil and Gas Investor.
Among these platforms is one to originate and track carbon credits, tokenizing them to trade on Topl Blockchain. Another one will track and trace the pedigrees of green hydrogen molecules.
The venture’s $4.5 million raise in 2020 resulted in a launch earlier this year of the “Blockchain as a Service” platform. It was led by Mercury Fund and included Goose Capital, Chingona Ventures, Beni Venture Capital, Blue Collective, RevTech Ventures, Social Impact Capital and Mercy Corps Ventures.
SiliconAngle Media Inc. reported blockchain pedigrees include “who pulled a mineral from the ground, where it was gathered, how much was gathered, impurities present, how much water was used, how many beans were in a bag, how heavy [the] crate of bauxite or even how cold it was inside a refrigerated truck when it left a facility.”
Each gene “would have also been recorded in the ledger as it was pulled out of the ground, picked from the tree … from water usage for crops to pollution through the production line to transportation emissions.”
A “burned token” in crypto transactions shows “proof of burn.”
The burned-token concept is already used in carbon credits, the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University noted in a July report. Credits “represent a verified reduction in GHG [greenhouse-gas] emissions.”
When exchanged, it is “permanently retired, meaning their transaction has been recorded in publicly accessible emission registries, and they cannot be used again.”
There are myriad RSG certifiers to date. And most U.S. gas-focused producers are already working on getting their certificates.
As for a global standard, there is none yet. EQT expects standardization will be sorted out in the coming 12 to 18 months.
Currently, there are myriad prices for carbon, Rice said. “There’s no global price, and I don’t think you can get the world onboard with a global price. I think that’s a long putt.”
But there is a price regime already in California and in the EU. “So those will be good benchmarks,” Rice said.
Woodard at Chesapeake said, “This is certainly an evolving landscape. There are a lot of developments internationally about trying to define what is ‘clean.’
“And cleanliness, if you will, in the gas space generally is being defined as a certain methane intensity.”
European majors and some other producers under the Oil & Gas Climate Initiative set a goal of 0.2% methane intensity. That number is being adopted internationally too, with participants deeming it “a high bar to reach for methane,” Woodard said.
But in the dry gas Marcellus and Haynesville, producers are voluntarily delivering volumes certified at a 0.02% to 0.03% methane intensity. “So an order of magnitude better than what is deemed good on the international scale.”
Elkin at Vine said the lack of a global standard is “a little bit of an issue. I think someone needs to take the lead and come up with minimum criteria, but nobody has done that yet.”
In the U.S. and under the Biden administration, the EPA will likely develop some standards, he added, so minimum criteria “may be formulated in the not-too-distant future.”
Since the Engie contract failure, NextDecade announced it will add CCS (carbon capture and sequestration) to its operations to reduce CO₂ emissions at its Rio Grande LNG plant, estimating elimination of 90% of the CO₂e.
“As a result, Rio Grande LNG is expected to be the greenest LNG project in the world,” it reported. Its NEXT Carbon Solutions unit is also looking at how to eliminate the remaining 10%.
In addition, it’s seeking RSG from Permian and Eagle Ford producers and partnering with Project Canary to verify the feedstock’s RSG status. In the Permian, Exxon Mobil Corp. has signed with MiQ to gain certification.
In March, Oil & Gas Climate Initiative, via its investment fund, participated in a $34.5 million funding round for NextDecade. The LNG developer’s stock price more than doubled the week of June 7, while presenting at a Credit Suisse conference.
Most existing contracts for LNG have terms left on them. Environmental standards on the gas’ pedigree may be a feature of contracts going forward, Vine’s Elkin said.
“As contracts and commitments begin to roll off, most people feel like the standards will be raised by the LNG purchasers.”
Of the U.S.’ current LNG export capacity of about 11 Bcf/d, Cheniere Energy operates some 6 Bcf/d at the Texas-Louisiana border and in Corpus Christi, Texas.
It plans to launch cargo emissions tags next year for gas it plans to begin certifying. Analysis will borrow from the Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory model in its GHG “QMVR” process: quantification, monitoring, reporting and verification.
The goal is “to enhance environmental transparency by quantifying the estimated GHG emissions of LNG cargoes from the wellhead to the cargo delivery point,” Cheniere reported.
Initial participants include Haynesville producer Aethon Energy, Appalachia’s EQT and Ascent Resources-Utica LLC, Permian-associated gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources Co. and Haynesville and Appalachian producer Southwestern Energy Co. by virtue of its September acquisition of the Haynesville’s Indigo Natural Resources LLC.
Building an LNG terminal on the Texas side of the border with Louisiana, Venture Global LNG announced CCS plans in May, compressing CO₂ on site and burying it in saltwater formations.
Labeling RSG LNG
The green LNG marketplace has a long way to go, according to the Center on Global Energy Policy report’s authors, Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar, and Samir Mosis, global LNG analytics lead for S&P Global Platts.
“There is currently no consensus on what qualifies an LNG cargo as carbon-neutral,” they wrote. “… There are significant differences in the range of value-chain emissions covered in each trade.”
By July, globally, 14 LNG cargoes labeled “carbon-neutral” by their shipper had been disclosed. Among those, 12 went to Asia, two to Europe. Of the latter, one was from Cheniere, the other from Gazprom.
Their “carbon neutral” status varied. Royal Dutch Shell Plc, TotalEnergies SE, Gazprom and Mitsui & Co. Ltd. cargoes proved carbon neutrality from wellhead to final consumption.
Meanwhile, Jera Co. Inc.’s “trade only covered the direct emissions from final consumption,” Blanton and Mosis reported.
Up to 80% and at least 60% of GHG from LNG happens at ultimate consumption; the rest, from well to tank (WTT) generally happens before.
“Given this dispersion, from the point of view of an LNG supplier, it would make sense to take responsibility for WTT emissions, given this is the portion they have direct control over,” Blanton and Mosis wrote.
WTT happens as part of Scope 1 and 2 emissions; Scope 3 includes what the consumer ultimately does with the molecule. Currently, the only way a gas producer can remediate the latter is with carbon offsets.
Shell and TotalEnergies, for example, are both gas producers and shippers. So it’s “not surprising” these and others “have committed to reaching net-zero emissions,” Blanton and Mosis wrote.
The next development is “the potential for buyers to request an emissions reporting, verification and mitigation component” in future LNG-purchase agreements.
If an LNG seller becomes responsible for canceling the GHG derived from consumption of the LNG too, does it pass that along to its own suppliers? All of this is “a critical unanswered question,” Blanton and Mosis wrote.
Jonah’s Ulrich said, “If we get it right, natural gas is going to play a strong and growing role [in the energy future].
“What we have got to do is build credibility within the entire supply chain—from rig to burner tip—and then demonstrate to the public and regulators, and certainly other stakeholders, just how clean we can be.”
It brings opportunity rather than impasse, he added. And the opportunity should mean growth for U.S. producers as U.S. gas will increasingly be seen globally as the most reliable source of RSG.
“Based on methane intensity and in moving towards much better standards,” Ulrich said, “we can export the cleanest LNG on the planet.
“I firmly believe that. It’s a tremendous opportunity for us all.”
Operating in the Haynesville comes with proximity to most of the U.S. LNG export capacity—about 6 Bcf/d on the Louisiana coast of the U.S. total of about 11 Bcf/d. Of the balance, about 4 Bcf/d is on the Texas coast; about 1 Bcf/d on the East coast.
That the Haynesville is a dry gas basin is another advantage, Vine’s Elkin said. “[The gas is] very clean in comparison to the [oily] Eagle Ford or Permian or SCOOP-STACK.
“The advantage we have over the oil and associated gas plays is we are already much cleaner.”
Rice at EQT said the failure of the Engie contract “was a great example of why we need to do more to certify the product we produce and get the credit for all the great work we’re doing.”
In conversations with European utilities, he added, “one of their first questions is, ‘How much do you flare?’ And we don’t flare at all here at EQT or, really, in the Appalachian Basin in general.
“But it just shows you that they haven’t differentiated between the suppliers of natural gas in this country.”
EQT, for one, is producing at around half the emissions intensity than the U.S. average. “So when they look at the U.S. average and say, ‘That’s not as good as we’d like,’ they have to differentiate between the real star performers like EQT.”
Overlooked too is that the U.S. overall has lower emissions intensity than Europe’s other gas sources: Russia, Iran, Iraq, North Africa and “even Canada.”
A goal is for Europe to see U.S. gas as “if you want clean energy done right, it needs to be sourced from the United States, because we’ve got companies that care, we’ve got government officials that care, we’ve got stakeholders that are watching to make sure it gets done the right way.”
Chesapeake has signed with both MiQ and Equitable Origin, double certifying its gas, Woodard said. Standards in both exceed regulatory requirements.
Over at Vine, it signed on with Project Canary in August to begin the process. Having already done the work, Elkin doesn’t expect any problems.
Vine has already pared its GHG emissions 40% since 2017. “And we’re down close to 70% on our methane intensity since 2017,” Elkin said. “So we’ve already made huge strides as far as being ‘clean.’”
According to Enverus data, he added, “Vine, by far, is the leader in the Haynesville as for our emissions.”
Rice said EQT’s and others’ efforts and certifications to date have all been voluntary, “and that means people can participate for the right reasons—not because they have to. We’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”
There could be some reward for it in the future. But, for now, “it’s [just] the right thing to do,” he said.
Could it eventually be required rather than voluntary? Could non-RSG become prohibited? “Well, I hope it stays voluntary,” Rice said.
Natural gas has become the No. 1 feedstock in U.S. power generation since 2007, pushing coal to No. 4—less than renewables and nuclear and more than halving use of fifth-place petroleum—according to the Energy Information Administration.
“We’ve lowered GHG emissions 25% in the United States over the last 10 years,” Rice said. “We’ve supported renewables to piggyback on our reliability. And we’ve made it low cost.”
As for if there will be an eventual U.S. carbon tax, “I think it’s too early [to tell],” he said. “But I am seeing a debate starting to form. “And EQT is going to be playing a leading role in ensuring that natural gas, rightfully so, plays a leading role in our energy future.”
In western Wyoming, Jonah Energy has more than 2,500 producing wells. As most of its operations are on federal land, Jonah has long worked at its environmental footprint, Ulrich said.
“We take a hard look at all of our impacts.” Jonah was the first U.S.-based company to join the United Nations’ Oil & Gas Methane Partnership, which is now in its second phase—the 2.0 Initiative.
“Why that’s important to us is, from an emission-reduction standpoint, we’re taking that significant step from simply calculated emission reductions to measured emission reductions.”
Jonah’s and other gas producers’ RSG efforts are essential “to demonstrate just how clean we are and how clean we can become in competing with all energy resources,” Ulrich said.
Because natural gas is essential to a cleaner energy future, “reducing or eliminating oil and gas production is truly counter to the goal of tackling the climate crisis.”
RSG in M&A
EQT is signed up with Project Canary, MiQ and Equitable Origin. Investors are in full support, Rice said.
“When we talk about things that we want to do to improve our ESG performance, which is the driver of sustainability, it’s very well-received with our investors.”
Still, cost is minded. “Our job isn’t just to go out and do things because they’re going to make us greener and more sustainable,” he said. “We need to prove that we’re doing this in the most efficient manner possible.”
One example will halve EQT’s emissions by replacing its more than 8,000 natural gas-powered pneumatic devices. An initial cost estimate was some $100 million. “We were able to get the cost down to $20 million.”
Meanwhile, replacement will eliminate some 53% of EQT’s Scope 1 GHG emissions from its production segment.
Other producers’ ESG scores are also important in M&A now, he said. EQT’s interest is in gas property that also measures well on RSG. The operator closed two acquisitions in Appalachia in the past 12 months.
“We’re not only looking at quality of assets and quality of balance sheet, we’re looking at quality of footprint,” Rice said. And, where properties are short of EQT’s own RSG achievements, it looks at where it can deploy its larger scale to elevate the property to its standards.
In analysis, “we’re not only going to talk about the financial accretion and free cash flow per share, we’re also going to talk about the ESG accretion by taking our best practices and applying them to the acquired asset base.”
Scale matters. With a large asset base, EQT can translate cost savings and uplift in product value by “pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into tens of millions, if not billions, of dollars of valuation over the long run,” he said.
Elkins at Vine said the motivation among producers to plug leaks and minimize or eliminate flaring is, first, monetary, of course. “Anything that you’re not leaking or emitting, you should be able to sell,” Elkin said. “So obviously that’s a motivation.”
But Vine and other producers “have always tried to be good in our community” too. “We understand that we are disruptive to the community. So we’ve always made an effort to do whatever we can to lessen that impact.
“Emissions and reducing the amount of truck traffic, whatever we can do to mitigate it,” he said. This summer, Vine eliminated 100,000 miles of saltwater hauling by installing pipe. “That’s a huge reduction for the community.”
When shale development became commercial in 2007 in Appalachia, producers there went to work just as quickly on assuring the least disruption to this area less familiar in this century with oil and gas development than Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma.
In Pennsylvania, surface and mineral ownership aren’t held in enormous ranches like in Texas, Rice noted. “We deal with smaller parcel sizes. So we touch a lot more people.”
EQT’s more than 1.6 million acres of leasehold is owned by some 100,000 landowners. “That’s 100,000 families we’re impacting,” Rice said. Meanwhile, state regulations in Appalachia “are very strict—some of them the strictest in the country.”
RSG Certifiers & Differentiation
|GTI Differentiated Gas Initiative||Lead: GTI
Partners: Currently soliciting partners. No trade associations or vendors may sponsor.
|MiQ Certification||Lead: MiQ is an independent, not-for-profit partnership between Rocky Mountain Institute and SYSTEMIQ.
Partners: Equitable Origin
Applicants to date: Chesapeake, Northeast Natural, EQT, others being solicited.
|EO100™ Standard for Responsible Energy Development Certification||Lead: Equitable Origin, a non-profit, operates an independent, voluntary certification system (EO100™) that publicly distinguishes energy developers that operate under the highest environmental and social standards.
Applicants: Chesapeake, others not listed
|Trustwell™ Certification||Lead: Project Canary, an international environmental standards company based in Denver, CO.
Clients: Southwestern, PureWest Energy, BHE Compression Services, NextDecade
2023-01-30 - Imposition of Russian oil exports is set to take effect on Feb. 5, which is expected to negatively affect Europe's diesel market due to the region's dependence on diesel fuel imported from Russia.
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