SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - Some Illinois companies are boosting their bottom lines and helping the climate by capturing and controlling methane gas released during oil and gas production.
An economic analysis released by the Environmental Defense Fund identified hundreds of methane-mitigation facilities nationwide, including more than a dozen in Illinois, that are saving $1.8 billion annually in wasted methane.
Mark Brownstein, associate vice president of EDF's U.S. Climate and Energy Program, said there are clear benefits of curbing dangerous methane emissions.
"Very often, the methane emissions are comingled with other harmful air pollutants," he said, "and so this is really a twofer; we take steps to address the climate and we take steps to address local air pollution."
Brownstein said methane, when first released into the atmosphere, is a greenhouse gas far more powerful than carbon dioxide, and the U.S. natural-gas system is its largest industrial source.
Almost 60 percent of the methane-mitigation companies in the report are small businesses that pay their workers well, said Marcy Lowe, president of Datu Research, which conducted the analysis.
"These are really highly skilled jobs with good pay," Lowe said. "It's worth noting that as the attention to methane increases, this is an opportunity for really good jobs - and they're not the type of jobs that you can outsource."
As natural gas production continues to climb, Brownstein said, prospects are good for these companies and their workers. He added, however, that thousands of oil and gas producers around the nation still are not controlling methane emissions. He said better federal oversight is needed to reduce emissions, level the playing field and ensure accountability.
"Government regulation will not only drive good results for the environment, it will create opportunities for these businesses, including businesses in Illinois," he said. "That's a good thing."
There are 17 methane mitigation facilities in Illinois that either build, sell or service methane controls to prevent or minimize emissions or stop the gas from escaping.
The report is online at edf.org/methanejobs.
Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service -- IL