The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency launched its Natural Gas STAR program in 1993 to provide a framework for companies with U.S. oil and gas operations to implement methane reducing technologies and practices and document their voluntary emission reduction activities. In 2016, the EPA established an additional voluntary program, called the Methane Challenge, to encourage oil and natural gas companies to adopt cost-effective technologies and practices that improve operational efficiency and reduce methane emissions.
The Natural Gas STAR program aggregates these voluntary partnerships to encourage oil and natural gas companies to reduce methane emissions. Program partners are required to sign a memorandum of understanding to demonstrate the company’s commitment, develop an implementation plan within one year of joining the program to “facilitate development of a strategy for how partners will identify non-regulatory methane emission reduction activities, plan new activities, and develop mechanisms for tracking methane emission reduction data and activities, execute their respective programs, and submit annual progress reports.
Participation in the Natural Gas STAR Program has numerous benefits, including:
1) Information sharing and technology transfer – The EPA facilitates technology transfer and implementation workshops to help partners learn about new technologies and practices.
2) Peer networking – Partners can participate in technology and implementation workshops as well as use web-based communications to build strong networks with industry peers.
3) Voluntary record of reductions – Through program participation and reporting, companies create a permanent record of their voluntary accomplishments in reducing methane emissions. In addition, annual reporting allows the EPA to provide feedback to partners through detailed summary reports.
4) Public recognition – The EPA provides recognition to highlight partner achievements in articles, industry journals, technical studies and fact sheets.
The program has identified a number of emission reduction options including flexible liners that can be inserted inside existing gas mains, directed inspection and maintenance at surface facilities such as metering and regulating stations, and composite wraps to address pipeline defects and prevent future pipeline ruptures. Many local distribution companies have participated in the program and demonstrated voluntary emission reductions. As of January 2021, Natural Gas STAR program partners reported the reduction of 1.68 trillion cubic feet of methane emissions by implementing 153 cost-effective technologies and practices. The Methane Challenge Program has reported a 5 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reduction in methane emissions since its launch.