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Oil & Gas Industry, Clean Up Your Act -- and Make Money

U.S. oil and gas industry, clean up your act. You’ll increase your annual profits by $2 billion if you do.

So says the Natural Resources Defense Council in a new report released this week. The NRDC says companies in the oil and gas sector could add billions of dollars to their bottom line if they did more to capture leaking emissions for sale instead, like methane, created when natural gas and oil is produced.

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Simply capping methane or plugging springing leaks during the production process causes pollution and lost money.

But the NRDC says in a statement that its suggestions can capture more than 80% of the methane lost every year, “an amount worth $2 billion in revenues if it’s sold at the average price of gas in 2011.”

It adds in its statement that “the amount of methane emissions saved is equivalent to those from more than 50 coal-fired power plants, 40 million passenger vehicles, the electricity for 25 million homes or 500 million barrels of oil.”

The NRDC says its findings are in a new report that was prepared by Harvey Consulting LLC, an independent oil and gas industry, environmental and regulatory compliance consulting firm.

"Right now, the oil and gas industry is letting pollution and profits evaporate into thin air, where they contribute to global warming, heart attacks and asthma," as well as cancer and other cardiovascular and respiratory illness, said Dan Lashof, director of the Climate and Clean Air Program at the New York-based fund, in a statement.

"We know how to stop those leaks to keep them from going to waste, threatening our health and harming our environment," he adds.

So instead of killing two birds with one stone, save the birds, and all breathing creatures, plus your bottom line.

The NRDC, with about 1.3 million members, reportedly got McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) to replace the plastic "clamshell" package for its hamburgers with biodegradable paper in 1990.

It says in its report that in the U.S, an estimated 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas was produced in 2009, the latest data available. But a whopping 623 billion cubic feet of gas was lost or vented into the atmosphere.

So the NRDC suggests 10 technologies that reduce methane emissions in the oil and gas industry.

Things like emission capture systems to capture gas for sale, such as tighter seals to stop gas leaks as natural gas is compressed. Or even simple things, like improving repair and maintenance of pipelines.

"It is shocking that industry has not put these measures into place when they're profitable, available and effective - and will even save them money, all at the same time," Lashof said.

Carlton Carroll, a spokesperson for the American Petroleum Institute, has reportedly said: "Oil and natural gas companies are in the business of selling methane, so they are obviously already heavily incentivized to capture and bring it to market wherever possible," adding, "they already do this whenever they can and continue to look for and implement new ways to reduce emissions."

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