Friday, July 24, 2015

Study Gets a Handle on Gas Leaks: 80 Billion Cubic Feet

4 percent of the facilities surveyed accounted for 23 percent of the leaked natural gas, worth about $240 million.

Credit: Drilling site in the Marcelllus Shale formation in West Virginia. (Credit: WVSORO) Click to Enlarge.
About 80 billion cubic feet of the potent greenhouse gas methane escapes into the air each year from the complex U.S. system for carrying natural gas to power stations and other consumers, according to new research published this week.

That would be enough to satisfy South Dakota's natural gas needs for an entire year, with a value of $240 million.  Researchers led by scientists at Colorado State University in Fort Collins found that 0.35 percent of the methane in natural gas transmission and storage sites leaks into the atmosphere, about what the Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

At the same time, the study found that 4 percent of the facilities surveyed accounted for 23 percent of the the leaked emissions, demonstrating the prevalence of so-called "super emitter" stations.  The scientists estimated that 1 in every 25 facilities among thousands across the country is a super emitter.  The findings were published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology.

"This study reiterates what several other recent studies have found: A few leaks can dominate the methane emissions coming from the natural gas supply system," said Amy Townsend-Small, a geologist at the University of Cincinnati who studies methane emissions from the oil and gas industry.
Policymakers often champion natural gas as a way to cut carbon dioxide emissions and fight climate change while the U.S. moves away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.  But scientific studies have suggested that the amount of methane—a greenhouse gas 34 times more potent than carbon dioxide—leaking from the largely unregulated natural gas production and transportation industry could eliminate any climate benefits.

Read more at Study Gets a Handle on Gas Leaks:  80 Billion Cubic Feet

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