Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top Energy Consultancy Critiques Howarth Study & EPA Methane Data

As commenter Mike Knapp noted on the blog, IHS-CERA published yesterday a report that heavily critiques the Howarth study.  It also argues that the EPA 2010 revision of methane leakage data overstates significantly the rate of methane leakage.  The EPA revised upward significantly its estimated rate of methane leakage. 

But then Professor Horwath constructed an estimate of a methane leakage rate for his study that was even much greater than the upwardly revised EPA numbers.

IHS-CERA is one of America's top energy consulting firms and argues the leakage rates in the Howarth study would create fires and explosions were they in fact true. See

Bit by bit the Howarth study is being consigned to the junk heap.


  1. Concerned ScientistAugust 25, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    An important point about shale gas that has been missed in some of these analysis is that many of the pipelines used to produce it are brand new and much less likely to have leakage issues. The Marcellus shale in particular has the advantage of being very close to the end users so it spends a lot less time in pipelines and travels through a lot fewer miles of pipe. I would argue that pipeline leakage rates for the Marcellus are probably lower than pretty much any other natural gas in the US.

  2. Concerned ScientistAugust 25, 2011 at 9:52 AM

    I read it and that was a very good report. One big problem in this whole issue are reporters and academics blundering into an issue they don't understand and writing articles and papers before they have done their homework. This report makes it so clear that Howarth et al were extremely sloppy and really had a very poor understanding of the issue.

    I thought this part of the report was especially interesting and flies in the face of the recent NYT article on shale gas as a "Ponzi Scheme:"

    Finally it should be noted that owing to the greater productivity of shale gas wells, fewer wells now have to be drilled to produce a given quantity of natural gas. EIA reports that 33,331 gas wells were drilled in the United States in 2008 and total US gas production that year was 55.1 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per day.* In 2010 only 18,672 gas wells were drilled, but production rose to 59.1 Bcf per day. The reduction in total wells drilled at least partially offsets any increase in emissions per well that may result from the shift to shale gas development.

  3. John - I just read the Times Leader report about this "battle of the studies." And I left this comment, if they will publish it, which i thought I should share directly with you.

    "The other and very important point not addressed here (in the article) is whether we HAVE 100 years left of a livable climate AND whether the short term effects of methane has to be measured because it is going to be more severe. Gas drilling produces a gas 27 times more potent than Co2 emissions, as I recall, and climatologists speak of a tipping point toward climate catastrophe in the next 10-20 years. If we don't have time, the fact that this methane dissipates within 15 years is not going to help; in fact it will come at the worst possible time. Sadly, tragically really, John Hanger is so blinded by his own aiding and abetting of the gas industry coming into PA that he seems to forget all he knows as an environmentalist about the rapid pace at which the planet is warming. The 20-year impact of methane is the more relevant standard, and in his heart of heart I believe Hanger knows that."

    When I see you comparing Ian Urbina to Judy Miller of the famous "aluminum tubes" case for going to war in Iraq, I understand that you have lost all perspective in your zeal to promote shale gas extraction. You are beginning to sound like a barker for the industry, and based on what I saw of you in Slippery Rock I think there is more to you than that.

  4. Global warming as well as mercury, soott, smog pollution is a major reason why I favor gas,. I am afraid some just won't accept that gas emits less carbon, as well as mercury, arsenic, soot, lead, smog than coal because they cannot accept any narrative or study that portrays gas as less dirty than coal or oil, even studies funded by the Sierra club. Gas has real problems like gas migration, and air emissions. It must be strongly regulated and reasonably taxed. But it is just crazy to insist it is dirtier than coal or oil. Gas cuts carbon by 20 to 50 per cent and can cut it even more with good methane regulation. See the EPA proposed July 28th rule. Also remember methane completely dissipates after 15 years. All gone. Caron dioxide persists fro more than 100 years. I will stick with the IPCC scientists who use the 100 year standard and not cherry pick as so many on the right do the climate science. You are now cherry picking in the other direction. As to the NYT gas reporter, the NYT Public Editor has hammered him not once but twice. I have neve seen a more disreputable reporter in over 27 years of dealing with the media.

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