Montana Environmental Information Center

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Oil and Gas Pollution in Montana

Emissions from oil and gas pollution in Montana harms the air we breath and threatens our climate. A significant quantity of natural gas is lost during production of oil and gas due to leaks and faulty operational procedures. Wasted gas could easily be captured with best practices and requiring pipeline infrastructure. Such a practice would increase energy available to consumers, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and increase royalty payments for oil and gas produced on public lands.

Wasting Resources and Increasing Emissions

Photo by Tony Bynum. To view more images and learn about the Blackfeet Oil Project, visit http://tonybynum.com/oil-project/.

The loss of natural gas through venting (releasing into our atmosphere) and flaring (burning) generally occurs throughout the entire production phase. In general, flaring emits C02, while venting releases methane, both of which are greenhouse gases. Estimates of the quantity of natural gas vented and flared range as high as 5 percent of total natural gas production in the Rocky Mountain West. Of special concern is the release of methane, an extremely potent greenhouse gas that is heavily associated with shale formations.

Reducing Emissions through Available Technologies

The Government Accountability Office, at the request of Congress, has thoroughly analyzed the issue of natural gas waste on federal lands as well as the opportunities to capture the gas. Their findings were shocking: of the gas wasted in venting and flaring, up to 40% may be capture through new technologies and alternative production procedures.

The EPA has identified several technologies that are technically and economically feasible, but have not yet been broadly implemented in the industry. These include “reduced emission” drilling equipment, utilizing “plunger lift” systems to capture gas during production, installing “vapor recovery units” during storage, and installing pneumatic devices at all stages of production.