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Dominion Energy made significant progress over the last two decades in reducing methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure. There are three primary ways the company will continue to reduce methane emissions:
- Reducing or eliminating gas venting during maintenance;
- Replacing infrastructure and equipment across the system with new, low-emission equipment; and
- Expanding leak detection and repair programs.
Gas venting during planned maintenance and inspection is one of the largest sources of methane emissions from Dominion Energy’s natural gas system. To reduce operational venting, the company is now using pressure-reduction protocols and innovative equipment to limit, capture, recycle and reuse methane emissions where feasible.
In Utah, Dominion Energy Wexpro installed new air compressors and air dryers on 31 devices at Canyon Creek and Church Buttes compressor stations in 2018, eliminating the use of natural gas for this purpose and reducing over 22 million cubic feet of gas lost per year.
We continue to push ourselves to find innovative new ways to save natural gas and reduce methane emissions. One example is the company’s use of Zero Emissions Vacuum and Compression (ZEVAC) technology to capture natural gas before maintenance or inspection so it can be recycled for use and methane emissions reduced. After piloting the technology on a limited scale, Dominion Energy recently purchased 20 ZEVAC units for widespread use across our distribution and transmission pipeline systems.
New Infrastructure and Equipment
Replacing infrastructure and equipment across the natural gas delivery system also cuts methane emissions. The company is replacing equipment such as bare-steel and cast-iron pipe, valves and fittings with new lower-emission equipment.
In Utah, all cast-iron pipe was replaced in the 1980s, and all bare-steel pipe was replaced in the 1990s. In 2018, Dominion Energy Ohio and Dominion Energy West Virginia replaced a combined 191 miles of bare-steel and cast-iron pipes.
See the Energy Reliability & Affordability section of this report for more information on infrastructure replacement projects.
Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR)
Other, more minor methane emissions from pipe or equipment leaks can be hard to detect. Over the last decade, Dominion Energy implemented tools and techniques, such as the use of infrared cameras, to identify such minor emission sources.
The export facility at our Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Calvert County, Maryland, implemented the most aggressive and best-in-class leak detection and repair program in the state. In addition, an extensive flaring system was installed to reduce methane emissions from the liquefaction process.
Beyond that, Dominion Energy has taken on an extensive, voluntary LDAR program, and as of 2018 is now performing LDAR inspections on metering and regulating stations, as well as storage wells.
While we’re lowering emissions from Dominion Energy systems, we’re also helping other industries reduce their own methane emissions. In late 2018, Dominion Energy announced a joint venture with Smithfield Foods to capture waste methane from hog farms and convert that waste into clean, renewable natural gas to heat homes and power local business. The $250 million joint venture, known as Align RNG, will substantially reduce agricultural methane emissions across Virginia, North Carolina, and Utah, while creating a renewable resource for energy consumers. To learn more about this program, see the section on Clean Energy Diversity & Security.
Progress to Date
Over the last decade, we have prevented approximately 250,000 metric tons of methane from entering the atmosphere, which is equivalent to taking over 1.3 million non-EV cars off the road or planting over 103 million new trees.
Methane and Other Emissions Disclosures
Dominion Energy reports emissions of carbon and methane from its natural gas and electric generation facilities to the EPA under the EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting rule. Because the EPA’s greenhouse gas reporting rule sets boundaries for reporting, Dominion Energy is not required to report methane emissions from a number of the company’s smaller compressor stations and other sources. However, in the interest of transparency, and to hold the company to a higher standard of accountability, we voluntarily include emission estimates from these smaller methane sources in our Corporate Methane Inventory and will routinely report them in our Methane Emissions Reduction Report.
During 2018, the company conducted a comprehensive review of its emissions tracking and reporting processes to find opportunities for improvement and to ensure that the inventory is all-encompassing. Based on these activities, Dominion Energy identified over a dozen areas of improvement for its Corporate Methane Inventory, which resulted in an increase of approximately 15 percent in reported methane emissions compared to a traditional inventory. Going forward, Dominion Energy will base its Corporate Methane Inventory on the enhanced format created in 2018.
We also reviewed our 2010 Corporate Methane Inventory, which serves as the baseline for our prospective methane emissions reduction targets, to apply the 2018 enhanced methodology. The enhanced 2010 Corporate Methane Inventory, as well as the enhanced 2018 Corporate Methane Inventory, are expected to be available by the end of 2019.
Beyond our voluntary commitment to reduce methane emissions by 50 percent between 2010 and 2030, Dominion Energy has been a founding member or leading participant in landmark methane emissions-reduction initiatives, including the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR Program, the EPA’s Methane Challenge Program, and the ONE Future Coalition.
As a member of the ONE Future Coalition, we are working with our peers to develop and improve the methane emission rate and reporting standard across the natural gas value chain to ensure clarity and consistent performance. All Dominion Energy natural gas companies joined the ONE Future Coalition in 2018 and participated in the coalition’s inaugural progress report.
As of 2018, all eligible Dominion Energy natural gas businesses have joined as members of the Natural Gas STAR Program and the Methane Challenge Program.
In 2015, we published our first methane report, building on more than a decade of voluntary reports on carbon and methane emissions. We continue to routinely update the report, most recently in 2019 (for 2017 emissions), to assure transparency on methane emissions.
Additional 2018 disclosure efforts include our work with the Edison Electric Institute and the American Gas Association to provide investors with a common set of information to assist with the review of our Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) metrics. We posted this metric template in 2018, and went a step further by being one of the few companies to post metrics for our gas transmission and storage businesses.