Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC on July 12 announced plans that would make it one of the first interstate natural gas transmission pipelines to acquire carbon offsets for its operational emissions.
Spanning approximately 303 miles across West Virginia and Virginia, Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) was designed to provide cost-effective access to natural gas for use by local distribution companies, industrial users and power generation facilities in the growing demand markets of the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions of the United States.
With total project work largely complete, MVP is awaiting approval for the remaining construction permits and anticipates utilizing up to 4,000 workers, of which nearly 90 percent would be represented by union labor, to complete construction and finalize restoration of the right-of-way.
“We understand the sensitivities that surround the blending of large-scale infrastructure projects with environmental protection,” said Diana Charletta, president and chief operating officer of Equitrans Midstream Corp., operator of MVP. “Equitrans Midstream is committed to aggressively pursuing climate change mitigation and adaptation while also balancing the immediate and increasing need for energy in our country. Today’s announcement represents our team’s latest effort to reduce industry methane emissions and achieve our corporate goal of Net Zero Carbon by 2050.”
Under the plan, Mountain Valley would purchase carbon offsets to make MVP’s operational emissions carbon neutral for the first 10 years of service. These emissions are often referred to as Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and include carbon dioxide from engines used to drive compressor stations; methane released during operation; and maintenance of the pipeline, as well as carbon dioxide resulting from generation of purchased electricity.
Verified by independent auditors, the offsets are measured in metric tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent and are an important tool for reducing emissions, while balancing the public need for natural gas as an affordable, reliable energy source.
The cornerstone of this plan includes a Virginia methane abatement project, by which Mountain Valley would purchase carbon offsets that are expected to be equivalent to 90 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with MVP’s operations over a 10-year period. MVP is also pursuing additional greenhouse gas abatement projects in West Virginia, including a substantial effort to address abandoned and orphaned gas wells that are expected to achieve carbon offsets of an additional 10 percent or more.
Once MVP is placed in-service, Mountain Valley expects to purchase more than $150 million of carbon offsets during its initial 10 years of operations. Through an agreement with a subsidiary of NextEra Energy Resources, the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun, these carbon offsets will be sourced through a methane abatement project in Virginia that is expected to be the largest operating coal mine methane abatement project in the world when it reaches full production in 2023.
The methane abatement project, located at a mine in southwest Virginia near the West Virginia border, will be constructed in phases, with the first phase anticipated to come online in the summer of 2022 and phase two in the spring of 2023. Current mining operations at this facility vent allowable emissions of methane into the atmosphere. The methane abatement project will use an onsite regenerative thermal oxidizer, which will capture methane from the mine and convert it into carbon dioxide and water vapor to significantly reduce climate impact. Upon completion, the Virginia methane abatement project is expected to reduce statewide underground coal mining emissions by approximately 25 percent.
“Once completed, the methane abatement project is expected to be the largest of its kind in the world,” said Matt Schafer, vice president, Interstate Pipelines, for NextEra Energy Resources. “MVP’s methane abatement plans will bring significant environmental benefits to the Commonwealth of Virginia and the state of West Virginia. Aside from the construction jobs needed to complete the final portion of MVP, most of which we expect to be union jobs, we are also thrilled that our methane abatement project will create additional construction jobs for the region.”
The carbon credits will be verified annually and registered with the nonprofit American Carbon Registry, the first private voluntary greenhouse gas registry in the world. This annual verification and registration will assure compliance with California Air Resources Board standards, which are widely regarded as the most rigorous offset standards in the market today.
In May 2021, the United Nations (UN) released a report on the benefits and costs of mitigating methane emissions.1 The UN urged quick action to reduce global methane emissions stating that “fast and ambitious methane mitigation is one of the best strategies available today to deliver immediate and long-lasting multiple benefits for climate, agriculture, human, and ecosystem health.” Coal mine methane management was cited in the report as one of many strategies utilized to reduce methane emissions.
Upon full implementation of its carbon offset plan, MVP would become one of the nation’s first, large-scale, interstate natural gas transmission pipelines to achieve carbon neutrality for operational emissions. Mountain Valley continues to expand its environmental stewardship and conservation efforts in Virginia and West Virginia and is actively exploring additional strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting sensitive resources, while simultaneously meeting our nation’s critical energy needs.