(Reuters) - Dominion Energy Inc said on Tuesday it plans to cut the amount of methane escaping from its natural gas wells, pipelines and other infrastructure by 50 percent over the next decade as part of its effort to combat global warming.
The company, one of the biggest U.S. power and gas utilities, even held contests among its business units to determine how much methane emissions they could reduce, said Diane Leopold, president and CEO of Dominion’s Gas Infrastructure Group.
“Rather than focus on saving money, which drove some of our early methane emission programs, we started thinking about sustainability and methane reductions,” Leopold said.
Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a major force in short-term global warming because it has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide in the first 20 years after it escapes into the atmosphere, scientists say.
The energy industry is the largest source of U.S. methane emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, unlike carbon dioxide, there is a market for methane. The more methane kept in pipes, the more gas companies have to sell to customers, an additional incentive to reduce leaks.
Dominion said the program’s goal is to prevent more than 430,000 metric tons of methane, or 23 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas, from entering the atmosphere between 2010 and 2030. The company said that would be equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road for a year.
Dominion has 3.4 million gas distribution customers in West Virginia, Ohio, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and the Carolinas, over 100,000 miles of gas pipelines and 1 trillion cubic feet of underground storage and production.
(This story corrects headline to say “releases” instead of “leaks”)
Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by David Gregorio