Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Study Ties U.S. to Spike in Global Methane Emissions

Oil and gas wells in the Bakken Shale region of western North Dakota near Theodore Roosevelt National Park. (Credit: NPCA/flickr) Click to Enlarge.
There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.

The United States alone could be responsible for between 30 percent and 60 percent of the global growth in human-caused atmospheric methane emissions since 2002 because of a 30 percent spike in methane emissions across the country, the study says.

The research shows that emissions increased the most in the middle of the country, but the authors said there is too little data to identify specific sources.  However, the increase occurred at the same time as America’s shale oil and gas boom, which has been associated with large amounts of methane leaking from oil and gas wells and pipelines nationwide.

“I’d say the biggest takeaway is that there is more we — the U.S. — could be doing to reduce our methane emissions to combat climate change,” study lead author Alex Turner, a Harvard University chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate, said.

The Aliso Canyon gas leak in California, which was plugged last week after a nearly four-month effort to contain it, has brought new attention to methane.  The gas is roughly 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a period of 20 years, or 35 times as potent over the span of a century.  The Aliso leak spewed enough methane into the atmosphere to equal the greenhouse gases emitted by more than 440,000 cars in a year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to rein in methane emissions from oil and gas operations, and has proposed new rules to curb them from oil and gas wells.  The Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan seeks to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by up to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

Global methane emissions have risen and fallen several times since the 1980s, Turner said, but they’ve been rising continuously since 2007.

“The causes for this renewed growth are currently unknown,” he said.

Read more at  Study Ties U.S. to Spike in Global Methane Emissions

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