Young Mother Levers Methane Recapture To Lead Climate Change Challenge

When PG&E Corp.’s San Bruno Pipeline exploded in 2010, it triggered Nooshin Behroyan’s entrepreneurial spirit — to measure and limit methane releases, avoiding accidents and minimizing greenhouse gases. After working as a consultant for the San Francisco-based utility, the Iranian immigrant started her company Paxon Energy and Infrastructure in 2016.


Cutting methane emissions is central to the battle against global warming. It’s also in the interest of utilities and oil and gas producers to recapture escaping methane or reduce the flaring of natural gas. Indeed, runaway methane will diminish the value of natural gas in electricity markets while recapturing it and putting it back into pipelines classifies it as a renewable fuel.


Major oil and gas producers are already investing in mitigation efforts, and many support the movement to regulate methane releases. Moreover, companies like ShellEquinorBPTotal, Statoil, EQTEQT +1.8%, ENI, Total, and Exxon Mobil know that without methane controls, the world can’t limit temperature increases. And that damages the prospects for natural gas usage; methane is a byproduct of the fuel that has economic value if recaptured.


“We recover 95% to 99% of the natural gas that would otherwise get burned off or released into the atmosphere,” says Behroyan, chief executive of Paxon in the San Francisco area, in an interview. “Natural gas companies and utilities must identify, maintain, and upgrade their pipelines. Imagine you are in a neighborhood, and they are blowing noxious gas and burning it.”


Instead of flaring or releasing the natural gas, the company removes it from the pipeline during maintenance and inspections. Paxon says it recaptures about 20 million standard cubic feet of methane annually, which natural gas utilities can sell. Because it is captured and re-used, regulators consider it “renewable.” The technology also aligns with President Biden’s goal of reducing methane emissions by 30% by 2030.


According to the International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook, companies flare or release about 75 million metric tons of methane each year. It adds that those producers or utilities could prevent at least half of those releases with today’s technologies — tools that improve with time. Fossil fuels contribute 35% of all global methane releases.


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