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Basic Information

Image of gas processing facility

Natural Gas STAR is a flexible, voluntary partnership that encourages oil and natural gas companies to adopt proven, cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce methane emissions. Methane is emitted by oil production and all sectors of the natural gas industry, from drilling and production, through processing and storage, to transmission and distribution. Given that methane is the primary component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas, reducing these emissions results in many environmental, economic and operational benefits.

In 2006, in support of the Global Methane Initiative (originally the Methane to Markets Partnership) Exit EPA Disclaimer, EPA expanded the Program to include international operations, significantly increasing opportunities to reduce methane emissions from the oil and natural gas sector worldwide.

Program Overview

What is Methane?
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) in trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period and is emitted from a variety of natural and human-influenced sources. Methane is also a primary constituent of natural gas, an important energy source. To learn more, visit EPA's Climate Change website.

Working collaboratively with the oil and natural gas industry in the United States since 1993, Natural Gas STAR has provided a framework to encourage partner companies to implement methane emissions reducing technologies and practices and document their voluntary emission reduction activities. Through this work, the oil and natural gas industry, in conjunction with Natural Gas STAR, has pioneered some of the most widely–used, innovative technologies and practices that reduce methane emissions.

Under the Global Methane Initiative Exit EPA Disclaimer, EPA is building on the successes of the domestic program by launching Natural Gas STAR International, a global partnership with oil and natural gas companies. This expansion of the Natural Gas STAR Program significantly increases opportunities to reduce methane emissions from oil and natural gas operations worldwide.

In addition, to learn more about the Natural Gas STAR Program, visit Join the Program and Guidelines to Participation. The Natural Gas STAR Program Fact Sheet (PDF) (4 pp, 330K, About PDF) provides an overview of the Program and why reducing methane emissions is so important in today's market place and environment.

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Overview of the Oil and Natural Gas Industry

Oil and natural gas systems encompass wells, gas gathering and processing facilities, storage, and transmission and distribution pipelines. These components are all important aspects of the natural gas cycle—the process of getting natural gas out of the ground and to the end user which can generally be broken out into four sectors. Each sector is defined as follows:

In the oil industry, some underground crude contains natural gas that is entrained in the oil at high reservoir pressures. When oil is removed from the reservoir, associated natural gas is produced.

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Cost-Effective Opportunities to Recover Methane

In conjunction with the oil and natural gas industry, the Natural Gas STAR Program has identified many technologies and practices that can be implemented to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Many of these technologies and practices can be effective in reducing emissions in all sectors throughout oil and natural gas systems. The Natural Gas STAR Program offers technical documents covering a wide range of recommended technologies and practices that have various implementation costs and anticipated payback periods. The following diagram shows some of the top methane emission reduction opportunities for each sector.

Top methane emission reduction opportunities for each sector.Gas Production and Processing

Oil Production

Gas Storage

Gas Transmission

Gas Distribution

The success of the Natural Gas STAR Program suggests that there are significant opportunities globally to address major emission sources and cost-effectively reduce methane emissions. The Natural Gas STAR Program’s efforts help partners implement the right cost-effective emission reduction technologies and practices have lead to measurable results. The positive impacts of Natural Gas STAR are social, environmental, and/or financial in nature.

For additional information, visit:

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Breakdown of Sector Emissions

Methane emissions occur in all sectors of the natural gas industry, from production, through processing and transmission, to distribution. They primarily result from normal operations, routine maintenance, fugitive leaks and system upsets. As gas moves through the system, emissions occur through intentional venting and unintentional leaks. Venting can occur through equipment design or operational practices, such as the continuous bleed of gas from pneumatic devices (that control gas flows, levels, temperatures, and pressures in the equipment), or venting from well completions during production. In addition to vented emissions, methane losses can occur from leaks (also referred to as fugitive emissions) in all parts of the infrastructure, from connections between pipes and vessels, to valves and equipment.

In addition to natural gas operations, methane emissions can result from the oil industry, primarily from field production operations, such as venting of associated gas from oil wells, oil storage tanks, and production-related equipment such as gas dehydrators, pig traps, and pneumatic devices.

The EPA estimates methane emissions from the oil and natural gas industry in its annual Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. Aggregate methane emission estimates by the major oil and natural gas sectors in the United States are presented below (where Bcf stands for billion cubic feet):

Production Sector Emissions 2011

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013.

Processing Sector Emissions 2011

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013.

Transmission Sector Emissions 2011

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013.

Distribution Sector Emissions 2011

Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks 1990 - 2011, USEPA, April, 2013.

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To learn more about the oil and natural gas industry, as well as protocols and methodologies for quantifying emissions, visit:

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