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U.S. unveils crackdown on methane from oil and gas industry

Source: Reuters

Nov 2 (Reuters) – The United States on Tuesday unveiled a plan to slash emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from oil and gas operations as part of its strategy to crack down on climate change, drawing cautious support from both environmental groups and drillers.

The announcement coincided with the U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, where the United States, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, is seeking to reclaim leadership on the world stage by demonstrating tangible steps to curb emissions at home.

U.S. President Joe Biden has set a target to slash greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50% by 2030 but is struggling to pass climate legislation through a deeply divided Congress, making policies by federal agencies more crucial.

His administration and the European Union are also seeking to lead a new international pact to reduce methane economy-wide by 30% by 2030, drawing participation from over 100 countries.

Methane is the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide. Its high heat-trapping potential and relatively short lifespan in the atmosphere means cutting its emissions can have an outsized impact on the trajectory of the world’s climate.

At the center of the U.S. plan to tackle methane domestically is an Environmental Protection Agency proposal that will for the first time require oil and gas operators to aggressively detect and repair methane leaks. Oil and gas operations account for a third of methane emissions.

“The timing of this is critical. As we speak, world leaders are gathering right now in Glasgow and they are looking to the United States for true leadership,” EPA Administrator Michael Regan told Reuters in an interview. “This proposal is absolutely bold, aggressive and comprehensive.”

Specifically, the proposal will require companies to monitor 300,000 of their biggest well sites every three months, ban the venting of methane produced as a byproduct of crude oil into the atmosphere, and require upgrades to equipment such as storage tanks, compressors, and pneumatic pumps.

The rules will most likely take effect in 2023 and will be aimed at slashing methane from oil and gas operations by 74% from 2005 levels by 2035, an amount equivalent to the emissions created by all U.S. passenger cars and planes in 2019, according to the summary.

While the United States has never before proposed to regulate methane emissions from existing sources, the Obama administration in 2016 introduced curbs on methane emissions from new oil and gas infrastructure.

Those regulations, which were weaker than the new EPA proposals, were scrapped by former President Donald Trump before being reinstated earlier this year by Congress.

The new EPA rules are expected to add “pennies” to the cost of a barrel of oil or thousand cubic feet of gas, according to the EPA’s analysis. But oil industry group the American Exploration & Production Council said they could add “siginficant new costs associated with compliance.”

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the U.S. oil and gas industry, said it was reviewing the proposals.

“We support the direct regulation of methane from new and existing sources and are committed to building on the progress we have achieved in reducing methane emissions,” it said in a statement.

Major producer BP Plc (BP.L), which has been seeking to burnish its green credentials and is investing heavily in clean energy, said it applauded the EPA proposals.

Washington-based environmental group Earthworks also called the proposals a positive step, but its policy director, Lauren Pagel, said “no well should be exempt from common-sense pollution standards when we know all wells pollute.”

The American Lung Association also said the proposal was a good start but the EPA needs to “set stronger limits and finalize them into law without delay”.

QUARTERLY MONITORING

One issue of contention is the fact the EPA’s well monitoring proposal applies only to sites emitting an estimated three tons of methane per year or more.

The agency said the three ton threshold would capture sites responsible for 86% of leaks.

Smaller sites will require less scrutiny.

Oil and gas industry groups had pressed the EPA to exclude smaller wells from the regulations, citing the sheer number of such wells and the costs of the monitoring and repairs.

Environmental advocates, meanwhile, had pushed for all well sites to be covered, and were also seeking limits on flaring: the practice of burning off methane that comes out of the ground as a byproduct during crude oil drilling.

The EPA said it will release a supplemental proposal next year to flesh out the rules and possibly expand them to include additional methane sources, including abandoned oil and gas wells, flares and tank truck loading.

The Biden administration’s methane strategy will also include a new proposal by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration requiring companies to monitor and repair leaks on about 400,000 miles (643,740 km) of previously unregulated natural gas gathering lines.

The administration’s broader methane plan also proposes new voluntary measures from the Agriculture and Interior departments to tackle methane emissions from other major sources, including landfills, agriculture and abandoned wells and coal mines.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Alistair Bell

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Sustainability

Sustainable Workplaces – A Prerequisite for the Future

By Thirumala Arohi, Senior Vice President and Head of Education, Training & Assessments, Infosys

In the last few decades, there is growing awareness about the dangers of climate change caused by the rising levels of greenhouse gases. As a result, enterprises are including sustainability best practices in their operations. Creating workplaces that meet sustainability goals can go a long way in achieving a carbon-neutral future.

Enterprises at large are contributing to workplace sustainability by ensuring eco-friendly campuses and buildings.  But sustainability can be achieved at a much larger scale when every single contributor to a business’s ecosystem makes sustainability practices a way of life.  This shift in the way we approach sustainability can be defined as workplace sustainability. 

The three pillars of workforce sustainability include the organization, the business eco-system, and most importantly, its people.

Organizations use technology to meet their sustainability goals

Most if not all sustainability changes are driven by technology. For example, in Europe, steel and chemical industries are using smart technology to monitor their energy use and use the data to optimize their production processes. Innovative mobility solutions are being developed for cleaner modes of transport. At Infosys, we have switched over to electric buses for our employee transportation.

Summarizing the role of technology in sustainability, Glickman and Kavanaugh in their book,

` Practical Sustainability’ say, with the explosion of new digital technologies such as big data and machine learning, the scope to solve environmental problems becomes much larger. The book recommends a framework that focuses on building a regenerative future and a circular commerce. It recommends employing technology to understand and contextualize the world through data-driven insights and finally to ensure that the sustainability initiatives are focused on elevating the human experience.

Business Eco-System as a Sustainability Driver

Committed enterprises are actively practising sustainability by extending expectations to their eco-system of customers, vendors, and partners. To take Apple’s example again, it commits to be 100 percent carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030.Technology enterprises such as Infosys have outlined sustainability best practices and tailored learning programs on sustainability for vendors and partners.

Workforce Integral to Sustainability

The central force in sustainability practices is people because technology is only a tool in the hands of people, and when the workforce uses it effectively it results in dramatic changes.

To ensure that workforce sustainability is not just a high-level vision, but a practical approach to business processes, the workforce requires to be trained and made aware of the need for sustainability. This is where the learning department plays a crucial role. 

Why Learning & Development is Crucial to Sustainability

Sustainability should be an integral element of all training – whether it is related to technology skills, professional skills, or leadership development. Every leader in the organization must be trained to imbibe the value of practical sustainability in their daily work and people interaction. The learning department can create campaigns and act as a powerful influencer in driving behavioural change in employees to align better to sustainability practices. Leaders can be trained to act as change managers to lead the shift to new sustainability-centric processes and best practices.

People, be it employees, customers, suppliers, or business partners can play an influential role in making a shift from performance to fulfilment. A change from generic learning to personalized learning can go a long way in helping employees understand the various elements of a sustainable organization. Keeping pace with the work from anytime, anywhere model that the pandemic brought about, the function of learning also has moved beyond the physical classroom to anytime, anywhere hybrid learning which is helping reduce carbon emits.

The learning and development teams are investing in technologies and creating smart eco-systems, making sure that the learning offerings are tailored to each role. The training is to enable employees to spot those areas of improvement or change that they can bring in their jobs to align with the broader organizational goal for sustainability.

For example, a well-trained engineer will learn how to optimize and reduce the number of lines of code to reduce power wastage required to run longer processes. Operations teams could learn how to leverage or reuse existing assets rather than build new assets. Designers and developers could create sustainability solutions using AR, VR, and digital twins that reduces the use of scarce physical resources.

The learning and development function can also champion and implement knowledge management practices in an organization. We are doing it at Infosys by identifying internal best-practices and creating micro or nano learnings out of them. Creating a knowledge eco-system can encourage employees to share and learn from colleagues on new ways of being more eco-friendly.

Organizations must provide learning and development not just to employees but all the stakeholders who have a role to play that impacts the environment. At Infosys, we have created the Infosys Wingspan, which is a versatile cloud-based learning solution that helps us provide training to our employees, suppliers, and partners. This helps spread the sustainability best practices among our clients too.

Digital transformation has enabled democratization of technology, where employees have access to IT systems to create new solutions and drive values. Their actions influence the environment. With learning and development, employees can be more aware of their responsibilities towards the organization and the world at large.

In the future, it isn’t the largest or the fastest organizations that will succeed, it will be those who are continuously adapting to change that will be able to thrive and contribute to a sustainable world.

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Business

Is now the perfect time to install a heat pump?

With homeowners increasingly looking for new ways to minimise their energy use and lower utility bills, we spoke with Jordan Brompton, co-founder and CMO of myenergi, to discuss whether or not heat pumps are the answer.

At a time of volatile energy prices and deepened environmental awareness, keeping a close eye on clever ways to maximise energy efficiency has become essential. Domestic solar panels have historically been the go-to energy-saving technology of choice, but in recent years the popularity of heat pumps have soared.

Offering numerous advantages and high availability, both air- and ground-source heat pumps provide a low-carbon alternative to more traditional heating solutions. Across Europe, there are now 19.3 million heat pumps installed,[1] with figures rising 11% year-on-year – driven, in part, by increasing policy support and incentives.[2]

It comes as disappointing reading, therefore, that the UK is falling far behind many of its European neighbours. Around 55,000 heat pumps were sold in the UK in 2022 – that’s fewer installations than 21 other countries in Europe, such as Norway, where two thirds of all homes are fitted with heat pumps.

But while the picture may seem bleak, change is coming. Indeed, in a bid to accelerate heat pump adoption to 600,000 installations per year by 2028[3], the UK government recently increased the grants available for both air- and ground-source heat pumps installations to £7,500[4] – presenting homeowners with the perfect excuse to finally take the plunge.

But what exactly is a heat pump, and how can it contribute to both energy savings and a lower carbon footprint?

A quick guide to heat pumps

Heat pumps are flexible climate-control devices that function as both heating and cooling units, dependent on the ambient temperature. Unlike traditional heating and cooling systems, such as gas boilers or air conditioning, heat pumps have the function of two-way heat transfer, with the ability to direct heat energy between indoor and outdoor environments. This allows for more effective and consistent temperature control with greater energy efficiency than many heating systems.

Heat pumps work by circulating refrigerant through a cycle of evaporation and condensation. On hot summer days, heat is removed from the house and transferred to the outside air, whereas during the cold winter, the little heat available is taken from the chilly air outside (good heat pumps still work in ambient temperatures of around -15°C) and transferred into the home. This cycle makes heat pumps extremely effective at regulating indoor temperatures year-round.

A big advantage of heat pumps is their passive nature, meaning they are much more efficient than their traditional counterparts. The end result is a noticeably cheaper energy bill and around a 20% reduction in CO2 emissions when compared to a gas boiler – a highly attractive solution for domestic temperature control.

But as efficient as modern heat pumps are, they still need electricity to run. This reliance on mains electricity can possibly be seen as counterintuitive when looking to curb carbon emissions, but fortunately there’s a solution.

Eco-smart home solutions are key

As home energy and heating technologies evolve, we’re seeing a growing demand for tech which synchronises devices that generate, store, and use electricity, as well as smart home devices that offer a simple way to make home energy systems greater than the sum of their parts.[EW1] 

Innovative power diverter technologies, such as myenergi’s eddi, are proving hugely popular with homeowners, and the best ones one the market are even compatible with both air- and ground-source heat pumps.

Rather than exporting surplus self-generated electricity back to the grid, a good power diverter redirects energy to a designated heating appliance, such as a heat pump or an immersion heater, to other devices, or into energy storage if heating and cooling are not needed at that time. They can even be configured to send energy to multiple heating appliances in sequence, automatically switching between them to provide the greatest energy efficiency.

While it’s not a necessity for households to utilise solar PV to power their heat pumps, for households with both technologies, a power diverter from a trusted manufacturer is invaluable. When PV is generating low volumes, such as on a cloudy day, the tech can automatically ‘trickle charge’ energy to heat water when their water heater is inactive – offsetting the need for power from the grid. Once panels reach a higher load, power can be diverted directly to the heat pump. With the ability to make intelligent decisions every second, the best power diverters can help homeowners maximise the value of their self-generated renewables.

The future of domestic heating

As we continue to target net zero and cut bills, innovative energy technologies like heat pumps will be crucial. Not only do they reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but they also help slash rising energy costs while delivering year-round temperature control. When integrated with technologies like solar power and eco-smart devices, homeowners can boost efficiency from their self-generated renewables, maximising energy savings while minimising their carbon footprint.


[1] https://www.theecoexperts.co.uk/heat-pumps/top-countries

[2] https://www.iea.org/commentaries/global-heat-pump-sales-continue-double-digit-growth

[3] https://post.parliament.uk/research-briefings/post-pn-0699

[4] https://www.gov.uk/apply-boiler-upgrade-scheme/what-you-can-get


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Business

Green Energy Legislation – How Your Business Can Keep Up

Britain’s commitment to its net zero targets has been called into jeopardy in recent weeks. Internal divisions within the Conservative party have seen Rishi Sunak look to weaken some of the nation’s commitments to reaching net zero emissions.

However, evidence shows that customers remain more environmentally conscious than ever. A Deloitte survey found that 35% of UK adults were more likely to trust a business with a transparent, accountable and socially and environmentally responsible supply chain.

So, what can your business do to maintain or grow its sustainability credentials whilst staying in line with green and traditional legislation?

Why operating sustainably is more important than ever

In spite of the Conservative party’s stance on the nation’s net zero targets, strong green credentials remain crucial for businesses to appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious public. 29% of UK adults are likely to prioritise a business with a strong public perception, record and reputation around climate change and sustainability over a business without.

It’s not just B2C businesses that have grounds to be concerned. UK companies operating internationally should also be watching the situation closely. The new proposal threatens to undermine UK investment from abroad and weaken our international standing with clients and business partners alike, leaving business leaders furious and investors ‘spooked’.

The EU’s Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism came into play in October 2023, creating a further divergence between the UK and Europe’s green legislation. EU companies are now responsible for compiling reports on the carbon emissions attached to certain goods, such as steel, aluminium and fertilisers.

So, though the British government may be content with relaxing our net zero commitments, UK businesses operating in Europe cannot be. The onus has been placed upon UK businesses to increase their sustainability credentials or risk being left behind.

Interrogate your operating practices

Companies looking to operate more sustainably are often faced with the initial challenge of identifying exactly where and how the company can become greener. Modern software solutions, however, are making this simpler.

Products such as Microsoft’s Sustainability Manager have given businesses the tools to interrogate their own working practices, acting as a hub for data intelligence from across the organisation. Allowing business owners to precisely calculate the sources of their emissions, this tool enables organisations to record, report and actively reduce their environmental impact.

This level of visibility is a huge benefit to businesses operating in a range of different countries. Even before the Prime Minister’s latest comments, concerns persisted about the UK’s failure to align its sustainability rules with the EU and US.

With the implementation of the EU green tax, international alignment of your business’s green policies is more important than ever. Sustainability Manager allows total visibility over emissions in an international supply chain, allowing your company to strengthen its foothold in the green economy.

Maximise your impact with collaboration – safely

This month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) released new guidance to help businesses better understand how they can collaborate to meet sustainability goals without falling foul of competition law. The Green Agreements Guidance explains how competition law applies to sustainability agreements between firms operating at the same level of the supply chain.

Such examples might include farmers aiming to improve or protect biodiversity by reducing usage of pesticides, or fashion companies agreeing to stop using certain fabrics that contribute to microplastic pollution.

The impact that multiple businesses can have on the environment outranks that of a single business in isolation, so collaboration can be a strong route to improve sustainability practices – but it’s important to do so legally. The CMA has adopted an ‘open-door policy’ regarding business collaboration in the name of sustainability, so be sure to consult them before carrying out a project like this.’

Avoid greenwashing – or pay the price

There’s no substitute for real, meaningful change. Given the importance of sustainability to the consumer, some less scrupulous businesses have been caught out by greenwashing – using unproven environmental assertions to sell products or enhance their public perception.

Earlier in 2023, the CMA were given new powers to impose direct civil penalties on companies who have been making misleading environmental claims. Your business could face fines of up to 10% of global turnover for breaches of consumer law in this manner – so any claims related to your business’s sustainability credentials must be thoroughly investigated before going public.

Support the sustainability push with external funding

In many cases, making your business more sustainable is an endeavour which requires significant operational change – and implementing such change can be a costly investment. Businesses should not be afraid of utilising external facilities like green loans or bonds to realise these changes.

Green loans and bonds are subject to an international standard known as the Green Loan Principles, which ensure the transparency of your borrowing and the environmental impact of your changes. This can protect your business against accusations of greenwashing and keep you focused on the task at hand.

Global green finance increased tenfold between 2012 and 2022, indicating just how many businesses are utilising external funding to become more sustainable. Don’t be afraid to explore your options – improving your sustainability credentials could be more achievable than expected.

Charlotte Enright, Head of Renewables at Anglo Scottish, commented: “In light of these changes to the UK’s renewable commitments, it can be difficult for UK businesses to keep informed on their responsibilities. That’s why it’s more important than ever for these companies to be proactive and drive change from within.”

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