We Hear You, So Let’s Talk

With the endless misinformation and even data overload about midstream’s role in energy production and environmental impact, there’s a lot to unpack. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty and answer your questions. This is an open discussion, so let’s clear the air.


Does the midstream industry care about the environment?

The world needs more energy, with less carbon. This is not a disputed fact. Midstream operators work with landowners, neighbors, regulators, and local governments to plan pipeline routes and build facilities to minimize the impact on the environment and endangered species. Consistent and strict regulations ensure operational safety and environmental considerations are a top priority. On a global scale, the midstream industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are very small. The midstream industry as a whole is requiring greater transparency through more accurate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting.

Chart source: EPA Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2020 (pg 45)


Can we just replace oil & gas with solar and wind?

Global electricity demand is growing faster than renewables, driving an increase in generation from fossil fuels. Renewables are expanding quickly, but not quickly enough to satisfy the growing demands for energy. US energy demand was up +5% in 2020 and +4% in 2021 compared to 2019 (source US Energy Information Administration). Despite the impressive growth of renewable energy resources, fossil fuels will remain, by necessity, our primary energy source, and pipelines are the safest means of transporting them. This is not an argument in favor of the status quo, but rather to show that immediate replacement is likely not feasible.

Chart source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021 (AEO2021)


Can our grid run on 100% renewables?

Currently, no grid is able to run on renewable energy 24/7. It requires a mix of energy sources to balance out demand fluctuations each day and from season to season. The US is still innovating and strengthening the renewable energy industry, but it is not yet able to keep up with our ever-increasing energy consumption. Germany, the largest market for solar power in the world, for example, must rely on fossil fuels to provide power to the grid when solar and wind are not available. To diversify their energy sources, Germany just authorized construction of two new liquid natural gas (LNG) receiving terminals and they are considering a long-term extension of operating three nuclear power plants.

Source: MIT Technology Review

Infographic source: Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering


Do pipelines create lasting jobs?

Direct and indirect jobs are created by pipelines each year. There are currently 56,000 direct and 378,000 indirect jobs created by the midstream industry according to the economic impact study conducted by Oklahoma State University. In addition to pipelines, midstream has several facets and they all require some amounts of direct and indirect employees to make the process successful, whether during processing, treatment, storage, transportation, or taking the product to market.


Can Americans who work in the oil & gas industry easily move to a new job working in the renewable energy industry?

This career transition is certainly feasible. It would require proper training as well as possible relocation to where renewable energy jobs are. There are federally funded programs that provide workforce and training opportunities to people interested in working in the renewable energy industry.

There are a wide range of salaries and career opportunities in both industries. Below are some examples of average salaries in both industries.

  • The average annual salary for a wind turbine technician in the US is about $68,000.
  • The average annual salary for a pipeline technician in the US is about $86,500.
  • The average annual salary for a solar engineer in the US is about $95,000.
  • The average annual salary for a pipeline engineer in the US is about $120,000.

Source: https://www.careerbuilder.com/


Is it destructive to build new pipelines?

Land disturbed during the construction of a pipeline is returned as closely as possible to its original condition. Agricultural lands are properly restored using approved, modern mitigation techniques.

For a look at the step by step process of building a pipeline, watch this video:


If we stop energy infrastructure projects (such as new pipelines), will this keep fossil fuels in the ground and speed the growth of renewable energy projects?

Immediately stopping or slowing down the creation of new pipelines does not equate to a growth in renewable energy resources. In fact, the creation of renewable infrastructure (such as solar panels and wind turbines) relies on the delivery of energy via pipelines for the concrete, glass and steel required to make them. The renewable energy industry has been slowly growing but will need to continue working side by side with fossil fuels for the foreseeable future.


How is midstream working to offset carbon emissions and combat climate change?

There are several steps the midstream industry is taking steps to protect our environment:

  • Diversifying business models to emphasize opportunities around electrification and low-carbon oil and gas as a complement to renewables.
  • Supporting the growth of deep decarbonization technologies, including carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS); methane efficiency; zero-emissions production; and hydrogen.
  • Adopting climate-focused Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles into business models; organizing messaging to markets, governments, and the public about both the energy transition and the expected need for oil and gas for decades to come, as well as the value of oil and gas companies in building the next generation of clean energy resources and technologies.

Source: Atlantic Council


Are pipelines dangerous?

The safest way to move liquid or gas is via pipelines. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, part of the Department of Transportation, oversees the safety of pipelines, along with various state agencies who work independently to ensure pipeline safety and regulation. Statistics from the National Transportation Safety Board show that “99.999997% of gas and crude oil is moved safely through interstate transmission pipelines. Pipelines make up less than one one-hundredth of one percent (0.01%) of all transportation accidents in the U.S.” On the rare occurrence when natural gas is released via pipeline, it vaporizes and does not impact rivers and creeks. In short, pipelines are extremely safe with minimal environmental impacts.

Source: Empower

Image source: American Gas Association


If you live near a pipeline, are you breathing harmful emissions?

It is safe to work, live and breathe near a pipeline. The Office of Pipeline Safety regulates the design, construction, operation, maintenance and spill response planning of America’s 2.6 million miles of pipelines. An integrity management program with regular pipeline assessment helps ensure that the lines are operating properly and safely. Enhanced risk management practices, thicker pipeline walls, and more frequent valve spacing are only three of the additional precautions taken when pipelines lie within more densely populated areas. Extensive measures are taken to ensure that pipelines are not releasing harmful emissions into the air we breathe.


What does midstream do to police methane emissions?

Midstream operators are bound by both state and federal laws to monitor and report methane emissions. In fact, “the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration is readying its first-ever restrictions on methane emissions and planning to press pipeline companies on the issue” in 2022, according to PHMSA. In a recent article in E&E News, they go on to say that “big interstate gas pipeline companies are supportive of the effort on methane and say they are already working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

There is a tremendous amount of new technology in development to detect methane emissions including satellites, drones, aircraft and ground-based equipment. GPA Midstream just formed a new technical committee responsible for all technical matters concerning the measurement, quantification, and abatement of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and associated environmental impacts that originate from midstream facilities. We want to continue to be good neighbors and stewards of the environment.


How are midstream and the oil & gas industry innovating?

Midstream and the oil and gas industry continue to improve technology and processes to optimize energy consumption. In addition to developing innovative equipment to monitor and maintain pipeline integrity, we are also implementing carbon capture projects. Modernizing these assets reduces our carbon footprint as we embrace the energy transition.

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