Princeton University

School of Engineering & Applied Science

Translating science to public policy: the case of regulating methane emissions

Speaker: 
Dr. Arvind Ravikumar, Department of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University
Location: 
Maeder Hall
Date/Time: 
Thursday, October 26, 2017 - 11:00am

Abstract: Methane, the primary constituent of natural gas, is a short-lived and potent greenhouse gas. In the US, oil and gas operations account for about a third of all methane emissions. Even as increased use of natural gas to replace coal has reduced power sector GHG emissions, it has raised serious concerns over the global warming implications of associated methane emissions. Recent studies paint a disturbing trend – emissions are significantly higher than estimates developed by the Environmental Protection Agency. Technology lock-in in the space- and water-heating sectors further underscores the likelihood of increased gas use in the future. It is therefore important to mitigate methane emissions until more sustainable and cost-effective options can take over.
In this talk, I first describe how optical gas imaging technologies like infrared cameras are used in typical methane leak detection programs at natural gas facilities. Using a combination of experimental and modeling results, I show how technology limitations directly affect emissions mitigation targets. Finally, I discuss how we can leverage advances in leak detection technology to inform emissions mitigation policy. In this context, I will review recent EPA regulations to address methane emissions from the oil and gas sector and describe some of the recommendations recently adopted by state agencies based on our research. I will end with a brief discussion on the tradeoffs between different policy tools, namely a sector wide carbon-tax and regulations, in cost-effectively reducing methane emissions.

Bio: Arvind Ravikumar is a post-doctoral fellow in Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University. His research interests combine elements of engineering and economics to develop effective energy and environmental policy. His most recent work has focused on emissions from the natural gas sector across the supply chain, from production to power plants. Typical analysis includes emission mitigation strategies, carbon-tax policy and regulation, life-cycle analysis, and technology assessment. He consults with businesses, non-governmental organizations, state and federal regulatory agencies in both the US and Canada. His received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University in 2015.