Methane emissions released by the U.S. oil and gas industry could be significantly reduced using available low-cost technologies and equipment, a new report by ICF International has claimed.

The analysis, commissioned by non-profit Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), estimated that methane emissions in the industry could be reduced by up to 40 percent for a total cost of less than a penny per thousand cubic feet. This equals less than 1 percent of the capital expenditures made by the oil and gas industry this year.

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Methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas industry are projected to increase by 4.5 percent by 2018. Despite existing regulations designed to curb emissions from the industry, the projected growth of the sector is expected to result in a further increase in emissions, ICF International found. As much as 90 percent of emissions predicted for 2018 will be released by oil production and natural gas infrastructure operating at the moment. Meanwhile, methane reduction opportunities could save the industry more than $164 million, with the emission reduction methods particularly low-cost for the upstream sector, according to the report.

Writing in a blog post on the group's website, Mark Brownstein, EDF's associate vice president and chief counsel for U.S. climate and energy, accuses industry members of putting business interests over their responsibilities to protect the environment and communities while developing their operations.