This week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released its natural gas emissions inventory for data collected in 2012. This is the second annual report measuring air emissions, and the findings showed that Marcellus shale emissions from Pennsylvania decreased sharply.
Data was collected from 56 different operators running 8800 natural gas wells and 70 different operators running 400 compressor stations. The report also newly included emissions reports on 250 traditional gas compressor stations not previously measured.
Overall, natural gas emissions show a downward trend even as Pennsylvania continues to develop on the Marcellus shale. For reference, there were 1,751 Marcellus based wells operating in 2011, a number that grew to 2,484 in 2012, representing a 42% increase in active wells.
The DEP admits a few types of emissions did go up, especially those tied to construction of new infrastructure, but it says key emissions types tied to environmental concerns are trending downward. For example, nitrogen oxide, which is tied to acid rain, and sulfur dioxide, which is a component of smog, both fell significantly from 2011 to 2012.
The report also states that Pennsylvania saved between $14 and $37 billion in public health benefits because of the improved emissions, according to EPA methodologies.
Chris Abruzzo, DEP secretary, attributes the lower output to increased production and use of natural gas, tightened emissions regulations, improved technology and outdated facilities being deactivated. In particular, he says, the emissions from Electric Generating Units (or EGUs) has dropped about 75%.
Next year’s report is expected to fall in line with the positive trend. Technology continues improving apace, development is booming in places like Bradford and Lycoming counties and the DEP issued new regulations as of 2013 that will restrict emissions even further.
If emissions continue to fall while impact fees keep rising, the natural gas industry will make good on its promise to improve the lives and communities of Pennsylvanians.