Cheap Oil and Gas Spark Industrial Boom
U.S. oil and gas production has increased more than fifty percent in the last decade thanks to the hydro-fracturing of shale deposits that’s pushing output to record levels. Unsurprisingly, this is driving investment in the industrial infrastructure needed to turn all that oil and gas into fuel, chemicals, and other high-value products. The Environmental Integrity Project created this public database to track the environmental and human health impacts of 429 of the largest projects to build or expand capacity at gas processors, liquefied natural gas terminals, refineries, petrochemical plants, and fertilizer manufacturers. The database also includes 116 interstate natural gas pipeline projects that are under construction or recently completed, or that have been announced or approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Monitoring the Industry’s Growth
Concentrated in corridors along the Gulf Coast and increasingly the Appalachian Ohio River Valley, these industrial hubs are major sources of greenhouse gases as well as emissions that contribute to local air pollution. They may also increase the risk of dangerous explosions or toxic leaks from facilities that are poorly managed or overwhelmed by hurricanes, floods, or other natural disasters. EIP hopes the database can be used to help monitor the industry during this critical period of growth, which happened especially rapidly under the anti-regulation, industry-friendly Trump Administration.
Our current database identifies 359 projects that have been issued final major Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012 that authorize over 270 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. An additional 41 projects have requested authorization to emit nearly 57 million tons of greenhouse gases on an annual basis. Combined, these 400 projects have the potential to emit almost 327 million tons of greenhouse gases per year. That’s equivalent to the carbon output from 76 new baseload coal-fired power plants running around the clock. While 247 of these projects are already fully or partially operating, 153 are under construction or in planning phases and have the potential to emit nearly 202 million tons of greenhouse gases annually.
Table I: Potential Emission Increases (tons per year) of CO2e and criteria air pollutants:
|Final Approvals Issued||359||270,150,726||65,451||14,982||59,776||118,109||14,437|
|Draft and Pending Applications||41||56,827,008||19,687||1,391||81,576||41,379||3,929|
Although the majority of projects included in our inventory are considered “major” sources under the Federal Clean Air Act, the emissions totals above include 62 projects that have been issued or applied for “minor” Clean Air Act construction permits since 2012. EIP is also tracking an additional 29 projects that do not trigger greenhouse gas permitting requirements, but could increase annual emissions of other pollutants by up to 660 tons per year of nitrogen oxides (NOx), 299 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 1,761 tons of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 1,230 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), and 300 tons of particulate matter (PM2.5).
Our database summarizes each project, tallies up the greenhouse gas and “criteria pollutant” emission increases from these construction permits and applications, and provides access to hundreds of electronic permit documents we’ve obtained from state and federal agencies.
Map of New or Expanding Oil, Gas, and Chemical Projects
Zoom in and click on a facility marker to explore each project, view its permitted emission increases, and link to permit documents. You can view the map legends and turn on demographic and political boundary layers by clicking on the legend icon (>>) in the top left corner.
The green color shows projects that are currently operating and emitting; blue signifies projects that are partially operating, meaning they have been issued or applied for Clean Air Act construction permits to expand; yellow shows projects that are under construction; and red shows projects that have not begun construction, including ten announced projects that have yet to submit permit applications to state or federal agencies.
Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines – New!
Many of the industrial facilities tracked in our inventory rely on supporting infrastructure, like pipelines that transport oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids from points of production to refineries, processing plants, and export terminals. Once a facility is built, the additional processing capacity it brings to the region introduces a need for more “takeaway capacity,” meaning infrastructure that moves additional volumes of product to market. These pipeline networks are often subject to different permitting requirements that may obscure the long-term environmental impacts resulting from a proposed project.
To better illustrate the true environmental footprint associated with the oil and gas infrastructure buildout, the Environmental Integrity Project has developed a national inventory of new and expanding natural gas pipelines. Our pipelines dataset (included in the data download below) features projects that have submitted applications and initiated pre-filing review with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), as well as pipeline projects that are either under construction or were recently completed.
Our pipelines dataset summarizes each project and the potential short-term air emissions impacts resulting from proposed pipeline construction, as well as any potential long-term emissions generated by additional compression. Our database also tracks the potential water quality and wetlands impacts associated with proposed pipeline construction and operation, and provides access to pipeline maps and hundreds of federal environmental impacts statements and environmental assessments.
Table II below summarizes the key air and water quality impacts from the pipeline projects we are tracking to date. The bulk of these impacts come from only a handful of large pipeline projects. For example, just five pipelines are responsible for approximately 96 percent of permanent wetlands impacts listed in Table II. While 42 of the pipeline projects included in our inventory are already fully or partially operating and 17 are currently under construction, the remaining 43 are still in planning phases and have yet to break ground. We’re also tracking five cancelled projects and nine projects for which potential environmental impacts have yet to be determined. These are either in the pre-filing phase and have yet to submit applications to the FERC, or have been announced but have yet to initiate the pre-filing process.
Table II: Potential Environmental Impacts from New and Expanding Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines
|Total No. of Pipeline Projects||102|
|Total Pipeline Length||4,261 miles|
|Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Project Construction||6,078,433 tons of CO2e|
|Potential Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Additional Compression||16,386,224 tons per year of CO2e*|
|Area of Wetlands Temporarily Impacted||5,421 acres|
|Area of Wetlands Permanently Impacted||8,511 acres|
|Total No. of Waterbody Crossings||6,412|
*This figure includes potential operating emissions from new and expanding compressor stations that are also included in our inventory of stationary sources.
Background and Methodology
This inventory tracks projects that are designed to enable facilities to perform a wide range of operations, including: compressing or processing natural gas, natural gas liquids, and condensate; liquefying natural gas for export; converting liquids or natural gas into petrochemical feedstocks, fertilizer, herbicides, explosives, or plastic resins; or exporting or refining crude oil. As of January 29, 2021, it also includes interstate natural gas pipelines.
The facilities in the database are either brand new or are being expanded, and have obtained or are seeking major “New Source Review” permits under the Clean Air Act that limit greenhouse gas emissions. Under federal law, these permitting requirements are triggered by any project likely to increase GHG emissions more than 75,000 tons per year while also significantly increasing emissions of certain “criteria” pollutants known to harm public health. We have included 23 projects that were issued or applied for GHG PSD permits that have been rescinded after a 2014 Supreme Court decision.
The criteria pollutants—which include particulate matter (including fine particles), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs)—are regulated pursuant to health-based air quality standards established under the Clean Air Act. According to the National Institutes of Health, air pollution exposure is associated with a wide array of health effects, including “respiratory diseases (including asthma and changes in lung function), cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes (such as preterm birth), and even death.”
The potential emission increases and point locations are from each facility’s Federal Clean Air Act New Source Review or Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) permit(s) or application(s), or FERC environmental assessment or environmental impact statement. The database also includes estimates of demographic characteristics within 3 miles of each facility. Those were calculated from EPA’s EJSCREEN census block-level dataset and the American Community Survey.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed additional tools to assess the amount of toxic chemicals released from industrial facilities and the health risks associated with toxic air pollution. For more information and to access additional data about facilities that are not covered by our inventory, please refer to EPA’s Risk-Screening Environmental Indicators (RSEI) model, National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA) review, or Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) website.
Our interstate natural gas pipelines inventory is based on the Energy Information Administration’s U.S. Natural Gas Pipeline Projects dataset (published April 29, 2021). Potential emissions increases and water quality impacts reflect data published in projects’ federal environmental assessments, environmental impact statements, or applications. For information about crude oil and natural gas liquids pipelines, please refer to the Energy Information Administration’s U.S. Liquids Pipeline Projects (published December 10, 2020).
Click the “Download” button below for a database listing all of the projects by state and their emissions:
Suggested citation: “Environmental Integrity Project. (2021, May 3). Emission Increase Database and Pipelines Inventory. Retrieved from https://environmentalintegrity.org/oil-gas-infrastructure-emissions.”
Note: This dataset is routinely updated and will continue to expand. Please contact us if you would like us to include a project in your community or if you would like to report an error.
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Related EIP Reports and Press Releases:
- Analysis of 2019 Data on Greenhouse Gases from Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Production (12/2020)
- Greenhouse Gases from Oil, Gas, and Petrochemical Production (01/2020)
– For a database listing all of the projects by state and their emissions, click here.
- 31 New or Expanded Petrochemical Plants Approved in Hurricane Zone along TX and LA Gulf Coast
- Greenhouse Gases from a Growing Petrochemical Industry, 2016
- Blowback from the Shale Boom, 2014