Potential Cost-Effective Opportunities for Methane Emission Abatement

Ethan Warner, Garvin Heath, Daniel Steinberg, Elke Hodson

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The energy sector was responsible for approximately 84% of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the U.S. in 2012 (EPA 2014a). Methane is the second most important GHG, contributing 9% of total U.S. CO2e emissions. A large portion of those methane emissions result from energy production and use; the natural gas, coal, and oil industries produce approximately 39% of anthropogenic methane emissions in the U.S. As a result, fossil-fuel systems have been consistently identified as high priority sectors to contribute to U.S. GHG reduction goals (White House 2015). Only two studies have recently attempted to quantify the abatement potential and cost associated with the breadth of opportunities to reduce GHG emissions within natural gas, oil, and coal supply chains in the United States, namely the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2013a) and ICF (2014). EPA, in its 2013 analysis, estimated the marginal cost of abatement for non-CO2 GHG emissions from the natural gas, oil, and coal supply chains for multiple regions globally, including the United States. Building on this work, ICF International (ICF) (2014) provided an update and re-analysis of the potential opportunities in U.S. natural gas and oil systems. In this report we synthesize these previously published estimates as well as incorporate additional data provided by ICF to provide a comprehensive national analysis of methane abatement opportunities and their associated costs across the natural gas, oil, and coal supply chains. Results are presented as a suite of marginal abatement cost curves (MACCs), which depict the total potential and cost of reducing emissions through different abatement measures. We report results by sector (natural gas, oil, and coal) and by supply chain segment - production, gathering and boosting, processing, transmission and storage, or distribution - to facilitate identification of which sectors and supply chain segments provide the greatest opportunities for low cost abatement.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages46
StatePublished - 2015

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-6A50-62818


  • coal
  • marginal abatement cost curve data
  • natural gas
  • oil


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