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Fracking Methane Emissions Hugely Underestimated by EPA: Study

Posted by feww on April 17, 2014

ENVIRONMENTAL HOLOCAUST
CRIMES AGAINST NATURE
.

Methane emissions 1,000 higher than EPA estimates

Using an airborne laboratory for atmospheric research, researchers identified and quantified large sources of methane emissions over southwestern Pennsylvania in June 2012. They discovered that emissions rates were up to 1,000 times higher than those estimated by the EPA during the same time period.

“We identified a significant regional flux of methane over a large area of shale gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania in the Marcellus formation and further identified several pads with high methane emissions,” said the study others. “These shale gas pads were identified as in the drilling process, a preproduction stage not previously associated with high methane emissions.”

The original sampling area (OSA) encompasses all of Green County, PA, most of Washington County, PA, and parts of Fayette County, PA, Marshall County, WV, and Ohio County, WV, for a total area of 2,844 km², the authors reported.

The authors identified 57,673 wells (see gray dots in below diagram) across the counties of interest.

“It is particularly noteworthy that large emissions were measured for wells in the drilling phase, in some cases 100 to 1,000 times greater than the inventory estimates,” said one of the report authors. “This indicates that there are processes occurring—e.g. emissions from coal seams during the drilling process—that are not captured in the inventory development process. This is another example pointing to the idea that a large fraction of the total emissions is coming from a small fraction of shale gas production components that are in an anomalous condition.”

The comparative impact of methane on climate change is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period, according to EPA.

Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development

Dana R. Caulton, doi: 10.1073/pnas.131654611

Significance

We identified a significant regional flux of methane over a large area of shale gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania in the Marcellus formation and further identified several pads with high methane emissions. These shale gas pads were identified as in the drilling process, a preproduction stage not previously associated with high methane emissions. This work emphasizes the need for top-down identification and component level and event driven measurements of methane leaks to properly inventory the combined methane emissions of natural gas extraction and combustion to better define the impacts of our nation’s increasing reliance on natural gas to meet our energy needs.

ch4 ppm
Regional enhancement of methane at ∼240 m above ground level (AGL) on the morning of June 21. The dashed orange box represents the original sampling area (OSA), and the gray dots show well locations. Credit: Caulton et al. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/1316546111

Abstract

The identification and quantification of methane emissions from natural gas production has become increasingly important owing to the increase in the natural gas component of the energy sector. An instrumented aircraft platform was used to identify large sources of methane and quantify emission rates in southwestern PA in June 2012. A large regional flux, 2.0–14 g CH4 s−1 km−2, was quantified for a ∼2,800-km2 area, which did not differ statistically from a bottom-up inventory, 2.3–4.6 g CH4 s−1 km−2. Large emissions averaging 34 g CH4/s per well were observed from seven well pads determined to be in the drilling phase, 2 to 3 orders of magnitude greater than US Environmental Protection Agency estimates for this operational phase. The emissions from these well pads, representing ∼1% of the total number of wells, account for 4–30% of the observed regional flux. More work is needed to determine all of the sources of methane emissions from natural gas production, to ascertain why these emissions occur and to evaluate their climate and atmospheric chemistry impacts.

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