Fueling Change: How a New Study Maps the Path to Natural Gas Decarbonization

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Energy Capital Ventures

At Energy Capital Ventures®, we are committed to forging a cleaner, more sustainable future by investing in breakthrough technologies that reduce the carbon footprint of the natural gas industry. Known for our strategic focus on Green Molecules™ technologies, ECV plays a crucial role in catalyzing the adoption of innovative solutions that can dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions across the natural gas value chain. This week, we're diving into a landmark study that aligns closely with our mission and offers valuable insights for anyone involved in the energy sector.

The National Petroleum Council's recent study, "Charting the Course: Reducing GHG Emissions from the U.S. Natural Gas Supply Chain," marks a pivotal effort to tackle greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production, transportation, and utilization head-on. This comprehensive study was initiated in response to the urgent need for actionable insights and robust policy frameworks that could guide the industry’s emissions reduction efforts effectively.

Through collaboration with a diverse group of stakeholders—including top industry players like ConocoPhillips, environmental organizations, and government bodies—the study brings together over 200 experts to forge a path toward substantial GHG reductions. By examining three key pathways, from enhancing current policies to fostering technological innovation and robust policy frameworks, the study outlines a strategy to achieve up to a 70% reduction in methane emissions and a 52% decrease in overall GHG emissions by 2050.

The study identified three key pathways for reducing GHG emissions:

  1. Existing Policies: This pathway focuses on leveraging current regulatory frameworks and enhancing energy efficiency to achieve significant reductions in methane emissions. By building on existing policies, this scenario aims for a 59% reduction in methane emissions by 2050. This approach relies heavily on the enforcement of current standards and regulations, which already dictate various aspects of energy production and use, emphasizing improvements in existing infrastructure and practices.
  2. Continued Reductions: This scenario expands upon the first by incorporating voluntary efforts and advancements in technology alongside existing policies. It aims for a more ambitious reduction of methane emissions by 66% and an overall 34% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2050. This pathway represents a middle ground, enhancing existing measures with incremental innovations and broader industry participation in voluntary reduction efforts.
  3. Technology, Innovation, & Policy: The most aggressive and forward-thinking pathway, this scenario envisions a comprehensive suite of new policies and technological advancements leading to a 70% reduction in methane emissions, a 32% reduction in CO2 emissions, and an overall reduction of 52% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. This approach emphasizes the role of breakthrough technologies and substantial policy shifts, aiming to transform the energy landscape with innovative solutions and robust regulatory support.

Each of these pathways represents a different level of intervention and investment in Green Molecules technology, reflecting varying degrees of change in policy and industry practices to meet the decarbonization targets. They provide a structured approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in a phased manner, addressing both short-term and long-term environmental goals. Looking ahead to 2050, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) study envisions a multifaceted approach to emissions reduction across the natural gas sector. Energy Capital Ventures is proud to invest in Green Molecules technologies that will strengthen each of the pillars identified in the approach:

Emissions Management

In terms of measurement, monitoring, reporting, and verification, the industry aims to strengthen its capabilities to effectively track methane emissions, thus enabling proactive mitigation measures. This involves expanding the utilization of emissions monitoring tools to standardize GHG emissions data and enhance transparency, while deploying standards to differentiate the GHG intensity of natural gas, thereby establishing a robust framework for emissions reduction efforts.

Energy Capital Ventures invested in Highwood Emissions Management because of its differentiated software solution for methane emissions management. Highwood is purpose-built for the oil and gas industry, enabling organizations to manage emissions better than ever before.

Societal & Policy Impacts

Regarding societal impacts, benefits, and community engagement, the industry is committed to maximizing the effectiveness of community benefits while fostering a deeper understanding of its impacts on local communities. Efforts will focus on building capacity for community engagement best practices and documenting impacts to address societal concerns, with the expansion of government incentives for community benefit planning laying the groundwork for sustainable community engagement. In terms of regulatory effectiveness and durable policy, the focus is on maximizing the effectiveness of existing and proposed regulations to drive meaningful emissions reductions. Efforts will include the deployment and harmonization of technologies to support regulations, enhancing regulatory compliance, and enforcement. Implementation of durable policy frameworks will provide the stability needed to attract investment and drive innovation in emissions reduction technologies.

We invested in Actual because it enables organizations to plan, build and manage large-scale sustainable infrastructure projects within geographic and regulatory constraints. Actual’s capital allocation tool ensures infrastructure investments achieve social, environmental and economic goals. It also serves as a tool to engage various stakeholders on climate tech topics to ensure the wide-scale deployment of essential decarbonization technologies.  

Emissions Abatement

Incentivizing GHG emissions abatement involves expanding existing market mechanisms and voluntary initiatives to incentivize emissions reduction efforts while introducing new market mechanisms, voluntary standards, and technology investments to further accelerate emissions reduction initiatives. This includes the development of economy-wide and sectoral market mechanisms to create a supportive environment for sustained emissions reduction.

Energy Capital Ventures has made several Green Molecules investments that drive emissions abatement.

Cemvita is devoted to the discovery of novel biological pathways for carbon sequestration / utilization, subsurface carbon utilization, in-space bio-manufacturing, subsurface hydrogen production, and bio-mining applications. Cemvita’s process utilizes already emitted CO2 to produce low carbon fuel stocks, ultimately reducing the need to unearth new fossil fuels.

Furno is developing a modular, small scale cement kiln that uses natural gas instead of coal to decarbonize cement.  The kiln maintains and improves the cement cost-effectiveness through a dramatically more efficient production process. Although the kiln is reducing emissions in the cement industry, it is being developed to run on hydrogen and other low carbon fuels, enabling natural gas providers to better contribute to abated emissions through a cement production end use.

Operational Improvements

Finally, industry and operator actions center on developing additional capabilities to improve operational efficiency and emissions management. Enhanced industry and operator cooperation will facilitate the adoption of best practices and technological innovations, with a focus on the development and deployment of new methods for assessing industry progress to ensure continuous improvement and accountability in emissions reduction efforts.

Energy Capital Ventures has made several Green Molecules investments that drive natural gas operational improvements.

Sapphire Technologies developed a turboexpander that is a great fit in retrofit applications. Their unit can be installed in parallel to a Pressure-Reducing Valve and effectively generates electricity for export or self-consumption while leveraging the pressure drop between a higher-pressure system and a lower pressure one.

Osmoses is developing several gas separation membranes critical to the sustainability goals of natural gas: their membranes make biogas upgrading 40-60% cheaper, can be used for upstream natural gas conditioning, for separation of hydrogen blended in gas pipelines, and even point source carbon capture.

In summary, the NPC study offers a roadmap for reducing GHG emissions across the natural gas supply chain, emphasizing the importance of collaboration, innovation, and policy action. The study's recommendations underscore the industry's commitment to sustainability and decarbonization, laying the foundation for a greener, more resilient future. Moving forward, it is imperative that stakeholders continue to collaborate and implement the study's findings to accelerate progress towards a low-carbon energy future.

Energy Capital Ventures is deeply committed to enhancing the pathway towards a sustainable future by fostering and funding Green Molecules innovations that align with the ambitious goals set forth in the National Petroleum Council's study on natural gas decarbonization. ECV not only supports the industry's transition towards low-carbon alternatives but also propels advancements that have a profound impact on methane management, societal and policy impacts, and emissions abatement. Each of our investments focus on enhancing operational efficiencies and developing cutting-edge technologies that significantly contribute to the decarbonization of the natural gas industry.

As we continue to champion innovation in Green Molecules, ECV remains a pivotal player in the energy sector's journey towards achieving significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. By aligning our investment strategy with the goals of the NPC study, we are not only investing in the future of energy but are also helping to shape it, ensuring that the natural gas industry can fulfill its role in providing clean, safe, and reliable energy to its consumers.