Underestimated methane leaks

A June 2018 study published in Science, has revealed that methane leakage from fracked gas is around 60% higher than originally estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The once-claimed benefit of using natural gas as a solution to reducing emissions appears diminished, following the research paper’s analysis that methane “leaks have nearly doubled the climate impact of natural gas, causing warming on par with carbon dioxide (CO2)-emitting coal plants for 2 decades.”

David Doniger, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C. suggests that the latest findings could prove challenging for regulatory bodies who have previously minimised the methane issues:

“You really do have to account for the emissions of methane leaked in the production and distribution. That erodes that benefit.”

This latest research correlates with NASA’s discovery, published in January 2018, where the methane levels from fossil fuels were found to be “substantially larger” than previous figures have shown.

Abstract of the study

Methane emissions from the U.S. oil and natural gas supply chain were estimated using ground-based, facility-scale measurements and validated with aircraft observations in areas accounting for ~30% of U.S. gas production. When scaled up nationally, our facility-based estimate of 2015 supply chain emissions is 13 ± 2 Tg/y, equivalent to 2.3% of gross U.S. gas production. This value is ~60% higher than the U.S. EPA inventory estimate, likely because existing inventory methods miss emissions released during abnormal operating conditions. Methane emissions of this magnitude, per unit of natural gas consumed, produce radiative forcing over a 20-year time horizon comparable to the CO2 from natural gas combustion. Significant emission reductions are feasible through rapid detection of the root causes of high emissions and deployment of less failure-prone systems.

You can read the full study here.