Jonah Field

An Ensign drilling rig contracted by Jonah Energy operates at a drilling site in September 2015 in the Jonah Field near Pinedale. The United Nations has recognized Jonah for its methane measurement strategies.

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Jonah Energy has been recognized by the United Nations for its ongoing efforts to tackle a tricky pollutant.

The oil and gas producer, which operates in Sublette County’s lucrative Jonah Field, this month received the highest designation from the U.N. Oil and Gas Methane Partnership for its extensive methane measurement strategies.

“We’ve been reading the tea leaves on the market and policy direction for a number of years now, and firmly believe that we have a responsibility to provide a cleaner energy source,” said Paul Ulrich, vice president of government and regulatory affairs for Jonah Energy. “And too, firmly believe that in order for us to remain viable as an industry, let alone as Jonah Energy, the natural gas industry itself has got to migrate to a much more credible platform regarding emission.”

Launched in 2014 and overhauled in 2020, the global methane initiative was developed by the intergovernmental organization’s Environment Programme and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition in an effort to standardize emissions reporting for methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 28 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, while facilitating emissions reductions.

Its monitoring framework, described on the program website as “the highest standard of methane reporting,” mandates that participating companies report their emissions “at an unprecedented level of accuracy and granularity.”

Late last year, Jonah became the first U.S. oil and gas producer to join the partnership, whose 72 company members represent more than a dozen countries; in July, it became the first U.S. producer to submit its methane emissions data.

A second U.S. company, Appalachia’s EQT Corporation, joined the partnership in June.

Jonah is one of Wyoming’s larger oil and gas producers. It’s one of the smaller U.S. producers. And it’s the smallest upstream member in the U.N. partnership. But this month, it became the first U.S. member to achieve a “gold standard” emissions rating, after the program approved its commitment to achieving the highest achievable level of emissions reporting for all assets by 2026.

The U.N. partnership champions reporting direct emissions — how much methane is actually being released — instead of relying on the estimates currently used by most producers.

Direct measurement requires the collection of ground-level data. Over the last decade, Jonah has scaled up its use of methane detection technologies, including handheld and drone-based infrared cameras, which are operated by teams trained to measure and repair detected leaks. It has conducted aerial methane surveys and is in the process of deploying fixed-point monitors. And it’s exploring the addition of artificial intelligence to its existing monitoring network.

“Even as a small company, we have taken the challenge of reducing our impact so seriously that we’re continuing to push in that leadership role,” Ulrich said.

Membership in the U.N. partnership is part of the company’s broader Responsibility Produced Gas program, which incorporates conservation goals, including protecting wildlife and groundwater, alongside emissions management.

In June, Jonah’s reclamation specialist, Josh Sorenson, became the first oil and gas industry representative to be named “Reclamationist of the Year” by the American Society of Reclamation Scientists; a month later, Jonah received a $20,000 grant from the Wyoming Energy Authority for a feasibility study on the production of clean hydrogen and renewable natural gas.

Beyond remaining competitive in a changing market, the company hopes to establish a pathway to cost-effective emission management for other regional natural gas producers. Jonah’s aim, Ulrich said, is to demonstrate that natural gas can be produced responsibly enough, and affordably enough, to remain a leading fuel source for years to come.

“If we’re truly going to create a transparent and credible natural gas system, we have to have confidence in our emission intensity — in our emission as a whole,” Ulrich said. “And direct measurement is, in our opinion, the best and only way to provide that credibility.”

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This article originally ran on trib.com.

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