U.S. Oil And Gas Industry Is Leaking 60% More Methane Than Estimated

Posted: Jun 24 2018, 6:00pm CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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U.S. Oil and Gas Industry is Leaking 60% More Methane Than Estimated
Credit: Jeff Peischl/CIRES and NOAA

Scientists estimate that the methane in the atmosphere contributes to about 25% of global warming

Methane emissions released from U.S oil and gas industry are far greater than official estimates, a new study reveals.

American industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane gas every year - much higher than the US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA's) estimate of 8 million metric tons. These emissions mostly came from leaky and defective equipment and their impact on climate is comparable to carbon dioxide emissions from all coal-fired power plants in US.

“This study provides the best estimate to date on the climate impact of oil and gas activity in the United States,” said co-author Jeff Peischl, a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Research In Environmental Sciences (CIRES)."It's the culmination of 10 years of studies by scientists across the country, many of which were spearheaded by CIRES and NOAA."

Among common greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is often cited as the biggest culprit for driving climate change. However, carbon is not the most potent gas. That distinction belongs to methane that warms the planet 86 times more than carbon dioxide over the first 20 years of its release. Researchers estimate the overall methane contributes to about 25% of global warming.

When researchers measured methane levels in the air around natural gas wells, tanks, valves and other equipment within U.S. oil and gas infrastructure, they found that the results are not consistent with EPA’s figures. The new study estimates that U.S. energy industry is releasing about 2.3% of gas directly into the atmosphere, which is highly concerning.

“Instead of coming from the well to the pipeline, the gas is escaping through vents or other openings in the system, and it adds up to a lot of emissions.”Study leader Ramón Alvarez, an atmospheric chemist at the Environmental Defense Fund, said.

The methane lost to leakage not only contributes to climate changes but also costs an estimated $2 billion. This gas is enough to heat 10 million homes in the U.S. The study also suggests that methane emissions can be reduced by repairing leaks and addressing other major issues.

"Natural gas emissions can, in fact, be significantly reduced if properly monitored," said co-author Colm Sweeney, an atmospheric scientist in NOAA's Global Monitoring Division. "Identifying the biggest leakers could substantially reduce emissions that we have measured."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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