Southern Company Gas and a coalition of natural gas companies beat their methane emissions goal by 67%, even as natural gas consumption by customers surged 58%.
The group, Our Nation’s Energy Future, registered a 2019 methane intensity number of 0.334% for the year. This ONE Future methane intensity number reflects the success of delivering natural gas from the production area to customer appliances. The results show that 99.67% of all methane transported through ONE Future member companies’ pipelines is delivered successfully to customers.
This is the third year in a row the ONE Future coalition came in under its 1% goal by a significant amount, according to its recently released report.
“This accomplishment shows that the natural gas industry continues to demonstrate its ability to minimize methane emissions while increasing access to clean, safe, reliable and affordable natural gas for our customers,” said Bryan Batson, executive vice president of external affairs at Southern Company Gas. “We are committed to reducing methane emissions from our operations to net zero by 2050, as we believe natural gas will be a foundational fuel to building a sustainable energy future that improves the quality of life for everyone at a price they can afford.”
ONE Future’s distribution segment beat its 2019 goal by 58% with a methane intensity rate of .092%, but Southern Company Gas and its local energy providers in Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee and Virginia were ahead of the curve. From 1998 to 2018, the Southern Company Gas family of distribution companies successfully reduced annual methane emissions by 50% while growing its distribution systems by 20%.
Because of investments to modernize infrastructure and collaboration between the utilities and state regulators and other stakeholders,the combined companies now deliver gas at almost 99.9% efficiency, Batson said.
ONE Future members use uniform, EPA-approved reporting protocols to demonstrate credible and quantifiable results that measure progress in efforts to reduce emissions. The group was formed in 2014 by eight companies, including Southern Company Gas. Since then, it has grown to 32 members, accounting for the some of the nation’s largest natural gas producers, transmission and distribution companies.
The 2019 results reflect reporting from the 24 ONE Future companies that were members in that year. Emissions data from the current 32 members will be included in the 2020 report.
Reporting data on a segment basis helps identify areas where members have the opportunity to improve. To help drive greater reductions industry-wide, for example, Southern Company Gas subsidiary Virginia Natural Gas announced plans to provide its customers with natural gas that is 100% sourced, transported and distributed by companies that have pledged to reduce methane emissions consistent with the ONE Future goal.
Current results from ONE Future membership show year-to-year achievement, as each sector was able to beat its goal.
In addition to the distribution sector’s success, ONE Future members in other areas within the natural gas industry also showed results that beat their baseline goals:
- Transmission and storage: intensity rate .112%, beating goal by 34%
- Gathering and boosting: intensity rate .033%, beating goal by 58%
- Production: intensity rate .085%,beating goal by 70%
- Processing: intensity rate .012%,beating goal by 89%
“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments and commitments detailed in this report,” said Richard Hyde, executive director of ONE Future. “Our dedicated members have consistently delivered better-than-estimated improvement in methane emissions reduction for the past three years. Our efforts to be more sustainable are seeing success.”
While reaching goals repeatedly makes some wonder if tougher marks should be established, that is not the case, Hyde said.
“Establishing a more aggressive goal would distract from the real message, that ONE Future has proven that methane emissions can be managed for the low-carbon economy,” he said. “We’ve learned a great deal about the science of detecting and reducing methane emissions, and we plan to utilize this knowledge to further reduce intensities to the lowest level we can.”
ONE Future’s overarching goal is to ensure the future of natural gas as a long-term sustainable fuel, which is in line with Southern Company’s net zero goals. The coalition’s objective is reachable as additional players in the natural gas value chain continue to embrace the benefits of reducing methane emissions.
“At Southern Company Gas, we understand that methane emission reduction is good for the environment, and also good for the natural gas industry, its employees, customers, communities and investors,” Batson said.