Report says tackling methane leakage from oil and gas operations critical to meeting global greenhouse gas goals

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Tracking methane.

Global methane leaks totaled 3.5 trillion cubic feet in 2012

Staff Report

*More Summit Voice stories on methane

FRISCO — Reducing methane leakage from drilling sites, pipelines and storage tanks represents a huge low-cost opportunity in the battle to cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report that says 3.5 trillion cubic feet of gas — worth about $30 billion — escaped from oil and gas sector operations in 2012.

The majority of oil and gas methane leakage comes from a handful of countries, with the top seven emitting countries responsible for over half of the global total in 2012. Despite the huge scale of the methane loss, very few have taken steps to regulate leakage from the oil and gas sector, or set specific goals to reduce emissions in the future. But the benefits of doing so would be considerable, according to the report.
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Environment: Methane emissions from pipelines declining

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Concentrations of heat-trapping methane are increasing Earth’s atmosphere.

Better materials and new regs drive drop in natural gas leakage

Staff Report

FRISCO — Despite recent findings of massive natural gas leakage from Boston’s distribution system, researchers say that, overall, methane emissions from cities and towns throughout the U.S. have decreased in the past 20 years — with significant variation by region.

Altogether, natural gas leaks from pipelines and other facilities add up to the equivalent of emissions from about 7 million cars, a significant amount, but lower than EPA estimates. Continue reading

New study takes nuanced look at methane leaks

In some gas fields, leak rates appear close to official estimates

Fracked nation.

Researchers try to quantify methane leakage in natural gas fields.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Boulder-based researchers have used thousands of detailed measurements taken during overflights to take a nuanced look at methane leaks from natural gas fields.

The findings show methane leaking at the rate of tens of thousands of pounds per hour in three major natural gas basins that span Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania. But the overall leak rate from those basins is only about one percent of gas production there — lower than leak rates measured in other gas fields, and in line with federal estimates. Continue reading

Study: 15 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year escaping from Boston’s leaky pipeline network

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This map shows the geographical distribution of natural gas consumption during the year from September 2012 to August 2013 for the four states included in the study region. The research team used this data, along with air monitoring and analysis, to assess the fraction of delivered natural gas that was emitted to the atmosphere. Image courtesy of Kathryn McKain, Harvard SEAS.

Researchers say energy companies have little incentive to prevent leaks

Staff Report

FRISCO — A team of engineers and scientists say that up to 15  billion cubic feet of natural gas, worth some $90 million, may be escaping from leaky pipes in the Boston area.

The researchers, led by atmospheric scientists at Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences calculated the figure by analyzing a year’s worth of continuous methane measurements, using a high-resolution regional atmospheric transport model to calculate the amount of emissions.

Tackling the problem will require innovative policy because  low prices and the way in which natural gas suppliers are regulated mean that gas companies have little economic incentive to make the necessary investments to reduce incidental losses from leakage, according to the Harvard researchers. Continue reading

Study: Natural gas boom won’t slow global warming

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Increase in global gas production likely to displace renewable low carbon energy

Staff Report

FRISCO — Increasing production of natural gas won’t save the world from global warming, researchers said this week.

In the long run, a global abundance of inexpensive natural gas is likely to displace not just coal, but  also lower-emitting nuclear and renewable energy technologies such as wind and solar. Inexpensive natural gas would also accelerate economic growth and expand overall energy use, the study found.

“The effect is that abundant natural gas alone will do little to slow climate change,” said lead author Haewon McJeon, an economist at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “Global deployment of advanced natural gas production technology could double or triple the global natural gas production by 2050, but greenhouse gas emissions will continue to grow in the absence of climate policies that promote lower carbon energy sources.” Continue reading

Study: Unchecked methane emissions from fossil fuel exploitation may push Earth past the climate tipping point

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FrackNation … but for how long?

Is natural gas really the lesser of two evils?

Staff Report

FRISCO — As frackers desperately try to pump every last bit of gas from the ground before the global warming clock runs out, scientists warn that methane emissions could push Earth over a climate tipping point in just a few years.

“We have to control methane immediately, and natural gas is the largest methane pollution source in the United States,” said Robert Howarth, greenhouse gas expert and ecology and environmental biology professor at Cornell University. “If we hit a climate-system tipping point because of methane, our carbon dioxide problem is immaterial. We have to get a handle on methane, or increasingly risk global catastrophe.” Continue reading

Study: Methane emission estimates much too low

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America’s natural gas infrastructure has leakage issues.

Methane emissions from natural gas industry facilities and other sources may be up to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A comprehensive air quality analysis shows that most estimates of methane emissions from various sources — including the natural gas industry — are much too low, a result that didn’t surprise the scientists who led the study. Total U.S. methane emissions are probably about 25 to 75 percent higher than EPA estimates.

“People who go out and and actually measure methane pretty consistently find more emissions than we expect,” said the lead author of the new analysis, Adam Brandt, an assistant professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford University. “Atmospheric tests covering the entire country indicate emissions around 50 percent more than EPA estimates,” said Brandt. “And that’s a moderate estimate.” Continue reading

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