July 2020, Vol. 247, No. 7


Kinder Morgan’s Journey in Reducing Methane Emissions

By Tom Hutchins, Vice President, Environment, Health & Safety, Kinder Morgan

The shale play revolution stretching across the United States has created a tremendous need for supportive infrastructure and, to date, Kinder Morgan has risen to that need and expanded its natural gas pipeline network to approximately 70,000 miles (113,000 km), with more growth planned to build new – and expand upon existing – assets. 

Kinder Morgan’s natural gas network is connected to every major U.S. natural gas resource play, including the Barnett, Eagle Ford, Fayetteville, Haynesville, Marcellus, Permian, Utica, Uinta and Williston – and transports approximately 40% of the natural gas consumed in America.

In the midst of this energy abundance within the United States, every company within the natural gas industry has been challenged with reducing its methane emissions and working toward a low-carbon future. The effective use of the current technologies and work practices has had a meaningful impact on methane emissions reductions. 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane emissions from the energy sector decreased 14% from 1990 to 2016, while natural gas output increased by more than 50% during the same period.

While that reduction is a big step in the right direction, Kinder Morgan understands that there is more to be done. The company’s philosophy of “continuous improvement” holds true for everything, including proper methane emissions management across its assets. Kinder Morgan recognizes that there is not just one single path to success with methane emissions management, but multiple paths with a suite of solutions. 

While we have been active in this area for decades (as noted below), Kinder Morgan enhanced its programs in 2017 by implementing a company-wide methane emissions reporting and reduction policy that works in concert with state and federal regulatory requirements. 

The multipath approach includes implementation of robust company policies, building upon existing work practices and technologies that have proven successful in achieving reductions for many years, advocacy and collaboration with regulators and policymakers, effective collaboration with environmental nongovernmental organizations (eNGOs), supporting the development of new technologies and educating its customers and the public. 


Kinder Morgan understands that industry, regulators, policymakers and eNGOs must work together to achieve methane reductions that will have a lasting and sustainable impact on the environment while still producing and delivering much needed natural gas. 

The company has held a very active role in the EPA Natural Gas Star Program since its inception in 1993, achieving methane emission reductions of 110 billion cubic feet (or 53.2 million metric tons) through the end of 2018. In 2014, along with seven other companies, Kinder Morgan co-founded ONE Future, an industry coalition dedicated to reducing methane emissions to 1% or less across the natural gas value chain by 2025. 

In 2015, the EPA initiated the development of the Natural Gas Star Methane Challenge Program to expand and enhance its highly successful Natural Gas Star Program by adopting some of ONE Future’s initiatives and methodology. 

Kinder Morgan’s leadership in both organizations resulted in the successful rollout of EPA’s Natural Gas Star Methane Challenge-ONE Future Option program in 2016. Immediately after its rollout, Kinder Morgan was one of the charter partner signatories of this program. 

While both organizations are working to reduce methane emissions within the natural gas value chain, ONE Future’s mission is to ensure the future of natural gas as a clean energy source by reducing methane emissions to 1% or less across the value chain by 2025. 

To achieve its collective goals, ONE Future identified performance targets for each of the five major natural gas industry sectors [production, gathering and boosting, processing, transmission and storage (T&S) and distribution] that would cumulatively add up to the overall 1% goal. 

ONE Future set these performance targets in 2014 based on the best available science and data at the time. The targets were set in rough proportion to each industry sector’s respective share of current emissions, while taking into consideration the methane reduction potentials within each sector.

Each sector’s share of current emissions was based on EPA’s 2012 national methane emissions for the natural gas industry value chain and the Energy Information Administration’s 2012 gross production data. Cumulative methane emissions intensity from the entire natural gas industry value chain was estimated to be 1.44% in 2012. Kinder Morgan reports within the T&S sector; this sector of the natural gas value chain had a methane emissions intensity of 0.44% in 2012. 

Based on the 2012 methane emission intensities for the natural gas value chain (1.44%) and the T&S sector (0.44%), ONE Future developed a science-based methane emission intensity target of 1% for the entire value chain and 0.31% for the T&S sector. At the time, hitting the 0.31% target was forecast to achieve a 31% reduction for the entire value chain and a 30% reduction in methane emissions intensity for the T&S sector by 2025. 

The ONE Future coalition now consists of companies across the natural gas value chain that have committed to transparently reporting progress on an annual basis. The coalition has completed two years of reporting for emission years 2017 and 2018. 

Realized Reductions

Each ONE Future company’s methane emission intensity (of their natural gas assets) is included and aggregated in one or more sectors. For reporting year 2017 (RY2017), the aggregated ONE Future methane intensity rate for the T&S sector was 0.122%. 

For RY2018, the aggregated ONE Future methane intensity rate for the T&S sector was 0.089%. This is a 27% reduction from 2017, while T&S natural gas throughput increased by 51%.

Kinder Morgan’s methane emission intensity was 0.04% in RY2017 and 0.02% in RY2018, a 50% decrease. Kinder Morgan methane emissions reductions were achieved using a variety of techniques such as:

  • Voluntary leak surveys and maintenance programs to identify and fix equipment leaks at aboveground T&S sites;
  • Implementation of pipeline pump-down techniques to lower the pipeline pressure prior to performing pipeline blowdowns;
  • Use of sleeves to repair pipelines, eliminating the need to blowdown pipelines;
  • Use of pipeline isolation systems and hot taps to make new connections, eliminating the need to blowdown pipelines.

The Future

Market forces and innovation have led to the United States becoming the world’s leading producer of natural gas – while at the same time reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports are increasing, and global natural gas demand is expected to more than triple by 2025. 

Natural gas is clearly a major part of the solution to a low carbon future, and sound infrastructure is critical to ensuring that the parallel needs of rising energy demand and GHG reductions are met.

Kinder Morgan is serious about infrastructure development while reducing methane emissions and continues to work with technology companies to test and develop new leak detection and quantification equipment. The company is working to ensure that as energy demands increase, methane emissions will be kept to a minimum, ideally 0.02% or less. 

Kinder Morgan works with organizations like ONE Future for one simple reason: Achieving long-term sustainability for natural gas production and consumption requires the efforts of the natural gas industry as a whole. 

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