2 min read February 2022 — In an interview with Invest:, Sasha Weintraub, senior VP of Duke Energy’s Natural Gas Business Unit, talked about the strategies and steps the company has made in order to reduce methane emissions by 2030. He also discussed the advancements in technology being made to improve the efficiency and safety of the industry and finding locations producing large amounts of methane.
What have been some takeaways from the last year?
In regard to customers, we’ve seen many people moving to the area and contributing to the tremendous growth that requires infrastructure to accommodate it. That is an ongoing process and we continue to support builders in that process. The volatility of weather is also a challenge. We design our system to be prepared for the coldest days of natural gas usage. We just completed our third liquified natural gas facility to support the Carolinas system.
What strategies have you used to recruit and retain talent?
There are two ways to think about this. We want to make sure this is a great place to work for our employees and that makes us attractive to new people. We found that we are able to give contractors certainty in the work they will be doing years from now, and because this is a volatile time, that is very comforting to people. Where we’ve seen dips is people retiring but we’re lucky enough to have enough flexibility to manage this.
How are you handling supply chain disruptions?
What we try to do is focus on our forecasting. We have a group of people able to use our data to find out who is going to be ready and when. We’ve had to prioritize homes that are ready to hook up this minute and know what’s on individual technicians’ trucks. Knowing where our individual parts and pieces are has been crucial. The supply chain has been improved to some degree but is still a challenge.
How is your company embracing sustainability?
Duke Energy has a carbon goal for the utilities, net zero by 2050. Last year we adopted a methane goal of net zero by 2030. We also joined ONE Future which is a coalition of natural gas companies working to produce the natural gas, shipping it and distributing it to create less than 1% methane intensity across the entire supply chain. We’ve been working hard to really meet that goal by 2030 and have partnered with Accenture and Microsoft to build a platform that allows us to monitor our emissions in real time using advanced satellite technology.
We also invested in a renewable natural gas company, SustainRNG. They are using advanced anaerobic digester technology to capture methane emissions from dairy farms and landfills and repurposing it through the existing natural gas pipeline network for end users.
How do you envision the future of the industry?
We want to decarbonize the natural gas system. We’ve been doing research and development on hydrogen to be able to capture methane that would otherwise go into the atmosphere through renewable sources.
Without a doubt we are excited about technology and satellites. It will detect a leak faster than we ever could before. It can also monitor construction activity so we can be proactive and plan ahead. Technology is advancing fast, and it is exciting to apply it to things we’ve been doing for years.
What is your outlook for the company in the next 2-3 years?
My outlook is fantastic given what we are working on. We are expanding installing smart gas meters that can detect anomalies and alert us in the Carolinas. We are excited to see what it can do in order to make us more efficient. Satellite technology can also direct us to methane sources that we can utilize when capturing methane.
What are your most immediate priorities for this year?
One of the challenges is natural gas prices spiking. Europe in particular is being pressured with high prices so they are turning to natural gas. We are working hard to let people know what they can do to manage their natural gas cost and direct them to sources of help they can utilize.
We’ve pledged not to cut people off during winter months, especially those most vulnerable and instead help get them assistance.
Being able to support growing communities that are great places to live is a privilege and we take that proudly.
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