Reducing Methane and Other Emissions
Methane is also a powerful greenhouse gas. At Dominion Energy, we have cut our methane emissions sharply, and will continue to do so as we replace old infrastructure and adopt new techniques.
Dominion Energy has reduced methane emissions by 10 billion cubic feet since 2008. Our methane emissions reductions are the result of the cumulative effect of numerous voluntary programs. Our initial methane reduction strategy focused on reducing our lost and unaccounted-for gas rate. But we wanted further reductions. So in 2011, we joined the EPA’s Natural Gas STAR program, which emphasizes best-management practices to voluntarily reduce methane emissions and report those reductions. By the end of 2018, all applicable Dominion Energy Gas Infrastructure Group (GIG) operations will be members of the Natural Gas STAR program.
Interested in reducing our methane emissions even further, we joined the EPA’s Methane Challenge as a founding member. By the end of 2018, all applicable Dominion Energy GIG assets will be members of the Methane Challenge. As part of the Methane Challenge, we committed to methane reduction targets through 2021, and we began disclosing results before the Challenge deadline.
In addition, the Gas Infrastructure Group joined the initial report of the One Future Coalition and participated in its inaugural November 2018 report. In December, the Gas Infrastructure Group also will be submitting an inaugural report under the American Gas Association’s Natural Gas Sustainability Initiative. Business units within the Gas Infrastructure Group also have partnered with Washington State University and Colorado State University to examine methane emissions, and the company is piloting new technologies to reduce venting from maintenance even further.
New Pipes and Procedures
Experience has taught us that one of the most effective ways to reduce methane emissions on the distribution side is to upgrade pipelines with relatively higher leak rates. In Ohio, we have been actively replacing approximately 5,600 miles of bare-steel mains since 2008. As part of the Methane Challenge, we are planning to reduce methane emissions by investing $200 million or more annually over the next two decades to upgrade bare-steel, cast-iron, wrought-iron and copper pipe in our Ohio pipeline system — expanding the $1.4 billion investment we already have made to replace more than 1,600 miles of pipeline in the Buckeye State. We began a similar program in West Virginia in 2016. We will have invested nearly $58 million in that effort by the end of 2018.
On the gas-transmission system, we are continuing to take further steps to reduce methane emissions. We are using procedures to make pipe connections that do not require natural gas venting and are reducing pipeline pressures on our compressor systems before natural gas venting during maintenance projects. In addition, we have expanded our leak detection and repair (LDAR) program at our compressor stations and storage wells.
In Utah we will reduce methane emissions under the Methane Challenge through a new program to prevent excavation damage to pipelines. Wexpro will install new air compressors and air dryers to 31 devices at Canyon Creek and Church Buttes, eliminating 46 million cubic feet of gas lost and other, related emissions. Dominion Energy Wexpro, our producing business, has been aggressively reducing methane over the past decade. As an example, it started reduced emission completions long before EPA moved to require this process to drastically reduce emissions at the wellhead. In addition, all high bleed devices were replaced in 2013 and 2014 with low bleed devices. Our effort to reduce methane at our production wells continue today. Just last year, Wexpro completed replacement of all older pneumatic pumps with electric pumps, eliminating 327 million standard cubic feet per day of vented raw natural gas and an estimated 1,100 tons per year of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. This year, we installed instrument air systems in two locations to eliminate more than 90 percent of the remaining methane emissions at these facilities. Finally, over the last two years, we completed water gathering projects at three locations to reduce truck traffic by 6,700 trucks per year.
The new export facility at our Cove Point liquefied natural gas (LNG) facility in Calvert County, Maryland, has implemented the most aggressive and best-in-class leak detection and repair program in the state. In addition, we utilize waste heat to provide the power needed for the liquefaction process, use air cooled condensers in the power generation process and we recycle the process water.
Recently we challenged ourselves to find additional, voluntary measures to reduce methane emissions even further, and launched new, voluntary initiatives to achieve the commitment to reduce methane intensity by 50 percent by 2030 (from 2010 baseline). Dominion Energy GIG also joined the One Future Coalition. Our Nation’s Energy Future Coalition (One Future)/ Emissions Intensity Commitment Option is an industry-led partnership, which provides flexibility to determine the most cost-effective pathway to reduce the methane emission rate of the natural gas value chain to 1 percent or less of gas throughput by 2025.
The company has also signed on to natural gas transmission business methane reductions through the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA). As a participant, the company pledges to install air-driven, low-bleed, or intermittent pneumatic controllers when installing new pneumatic controllers, unless a different device is required for safe operations; minimizing emissions through maintenance, repair and replacement of pipelines; replacing rod packing on all transmission and storage reciprocating compressors at prescribed intervals; conducting leak surveys at member-owned and member operated transmission and storage compressor stations and natural gas storage wells; and to transparent reporting of methane emissions.
In addition to reducing emissions, we are focused on continuing to be transparent about our emissions. In fact, we are proud to have the most comprehensive public disclosures of any peer gas company. In September, CDP CEO Paul Simpson recognized Dominion Energy’s commitment, writing that U.S. “disclosers include … Dominion Energy, the seventh largest publicly traded utility in the world.”
Dominion Energy has been proactive about reporting its emissions, including methane, using EPA-recommended approaches.
- We have voluntarily reported our carbon emissions on our website since 2005.
- In 2008, we began developing a corporate greenhouse-gas inventory for our natural gas businesses.
- In 2012, we began reporting emissions from our natural-gas system under the EPA greenhouse-gas reporting program.
- In 2015, we published our first methane report, building on more than a decade of voluntary reports on greenhouse gas emissions. We continue to update the report, most recently in 2018, to continue to improve our transparency on methane emissions. For more details, see the most recent version of our Methane Management Report, updated as of May 3, 2018.
- We continue to incorporate and share cost-effective best practices in engineering design to reduce methane emissions from new projects.
In 2018, Dominion Energy is increasing disclosures of greenhouse gases including methane and carbon dioxide for our electric and natural gas business by participating in the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project). We have piloted the American Gas Association’s environmental, social and governance metrics for natural gas distribution businesses and will be participating in the public pilot of these metrics in 2018. This pilot is in addition to our participation in the Edison Electric Institution’s ESG and Sustainability Metrics.
To enhance our disclosures concerning our generation business, strategy, governance, risks and opportunities, we have conducted a two-degree scenario analysis and published the report in November, 2018. The analysis focuses on the company’s full portfolio power generation assets and will augment the scenario analysis currently conducted for our regulated assets as part of the Integrated Resource Plan.
Other Greenhouse Gases
In addition to carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), other anthropogenic GHGs include nitrous oxides (N2O) and fluorinated gases including sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). Sulfur hexafluoride is a very potent GHG that is used as an electric insulator gas in high-voltage equipment in the transmission and distribution of electricity through the power grid (including circuit breakers, gas-insulated substations and other switchgear). The company has been implementing best-management practices to minimize and reduce SF6 emissions from its electric transmission and distribution system, including the inspection of switch gear for gas pressure (which indicates leakage), replacing or conducting maintenance on leaking equipment, owning and operating SF6 charging and reclamation equipment, removing SF6 before breakers are sold or scrapped, testing and reusing (recycling) SF6, owning and operating laser leak-detection equipment, and utilizing extensive written procedures and conducting training for handling SF6. The company has reduced its SF6 equipment leak rate by 86 percent and its emissions of SF6 by approximately 68 percent since 2011.
From 2000 to 2018, we have reduced emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, measured in pounds per net megawatt-hour, by 93 percent, 98 percent and 97 percent respectively. During the same period, Dominion Energy increased the amount of electricity provided by 52 percent.
Our Green Fleet
Alternative-vehicle technologies and fuels help lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce worksite noise levels and improve working conditions for our field crews. As of August 2018, more than one in three (41 percent) of the vehicles in our on-road fleet — more than 7,000 cars and trucks — are powered by alternative fuels. In addition, we are proud that Clean Cities recognized Dominion Energy as one of the top idle-free businesses in Utah in 2017.