The U.S. energy industry continued to lower CO2 emissions in 2016, with the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reporting a 1.7% drop in 2016 compared to a year earlier.
Coal can take the credit for a huge part of the drop.
Data released from the EIA this week showed CO2 emissions from the energy industry fell to 5,170 million metric tons, following a trend seen throughout the last decade. Of the fuels covered in the report, CO2 emissions from the coal sector fell the farthest—down 8.6%—as coal consumption tumbled for the third year in a row, hitting about 730 million short tons.
But rising consumption of petroleum and natural gas, though cleaner-burning than its fossil-fuel peers, led to rising CO2 emissions from these fuel sources. Driven by higher consumption in transportation, petroleum consumption jumped to 19.6 million barrels per day in 2016, resulting in a 1.1% increase in its CO2 emissions.
Likewise, natural gas consumption also rose, ending the year at 27.5 trillion cubic feet, amid higher demand from the electric power and industrial sectors, according to the EIA. CO2 emissions from natural gas inched up by 0.9%.
But some companies are putting emissions reduction efforts among their top priorities, even as oil and gas production rises. Hopefully, their efforts will lead to fewer emissions.
NRG Energy, JX Nippon and partners, for example, teamed up to capture CO2 from NRG’s WA Parish plant in Fort Bend County, Texas. From there, the CO2 is sent via a 90-mile pipeline to the Hilcorp Energy-operated West Ranch oil field, where it is used for EOR. The $1 billion unit marked its completion in January, and a celebration is scheduled for April 12.
The project, which received federal grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, is expected to help push NRG closer to its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 50% by 2030.
NRG, JX Nippon and Hilcorp are not alone. There are several others, including Southwestern Energy, which has a slew of efforts underway. The company is using a variety of technologies and techniques to take emissions, including methane and fugitive emissions at drilling sites. Among these are the use of green completions, smart lift automated gas systems and artificial plunger lift systems and no-bleed controllers as well as infrared cameras to survey facilities and locate emissions so they can be repaired quickly.
Perhaps, the technology wave will usher in a movement that will send emissions down in the transportation sector.
“The U.S. transportation sector was the only consumption sector where CO2 emissions increased in 2016,” the EIA said. “CO2 emissions from the transportation sector increased by 1.9%, largely reflecting emissions from motor gasoline, which increased 1.8% in 2016. Emissions from the transportation sector surpassed those from the power sector during 2016—a trend that persists through at least 2040 in the reference case projections in EIA's 2017 Annual Energy Outlook.”
The report also showed that emissions of CO2 from the electric power sector dropped by 4.9%, mainly due to the decline in coal use for electricity generation as generation from natural gas and non- CO2 emitting renewable sources rose, according to the EIA.
“Overall, the data indicate about a 5% decline in the carbon intensity of the power sector, a rate that was also realized in 2015,” the EIA said. “Since 1973, no two consecutive years have seen a decline of this magnitude, and only one other year (2009) has seen a similar decline.”
Velda Addison can be reached at email@example.com.
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