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‘Responsibly Sourced' Gas Finds a Niche, But Some Cry Greenwashing

U.S. natural gas companies are certifying their operations as lower methane. With no uniform standards, critics warn it’s just feel-good branding.

Illustration: Felix Decombat

Illustration: Felix Decombat

From organic chicken to fair-trade coffee, buyers have increasingly shown they’re prepared to pay more for products that meet higher environmental and social standards. The U.S. natural gas sector is wagering its customers will do the same.

A growing list of companies is getting behind the concept of “responsibly sourced gas,” or RSG. The pitch: Some sources of gas are dirtier than others in terms of the methane emissions associated with production. Utilities under investor pressure to get greener might pay up for the ostensibly cleaner fuel, the thinking goes, making the certification worth the time and money. The idea is rapidly gaining traction among gas evangelists, with one pipeline company estimating operators producing more than a third of U.S. supplies are racing to certify at least some of their output as RSG.