Wednesday, February 15, 2012

NOAA Data Underline Need To Cut Methane Leakage

A team of NOAA scientists measuring air quality in a portion of Colorado estimates that 4% of the produced gas at a gas field is leaking into the atmosphere.  See  That leakage rate is high and would be about 43% greater than current EPA national estimates.

Yet still other data about the leakage rate being developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology indicate that the leakage rate is below the current EPA estimate, according to Sergey Paltsev of MIT.

No matter which estimate is right, the leakage rate of methane can be cut and must be cut. Indeed, the EPA proposed July 2011 rules would do the job, even according to Professor Howarth.

Professor Howarth said of the rules in his most recent paper: "Can shale-gas methane emissions be reduced. Clearly yes, and proposed EPA regulations to require capture of gas at the time of well completions are an important step."

The gas industry should for its own good take methane leakage seriously, as nothing more fundamentally risks damaging the brand of gas as a cleaner burning fuel than this issue.  Unfortunately, global warming science can lead to major arguments with some in gas industry circles, and not all companies are members of the EPA Gas Star program. As a result, not all  are genuinely committed to excellent practices for limiting methane leakage.

Even if the methane leakage rate was 4%, and again MIT thinks it is not, coal would emit substantially more carbon than gas when coal is used for electricity, and nearly all coal is used for that purpose in the USA.  But there is no need for the methane leakage rate to be 4%. Cutting methane leakage rates should be something that unites and not divides.


  1. "No matter which estimate is right, the leakage rate of methane can be cut and must be cut..." - Agreed! Only I'm a little hazy on whether the entire Shale Gas Industry in PA is considered a single-source emitter? Are transport and treatment operators considered a separate source of pollution? One would hope EPA's proposed regs will cover the whole industry, not just drillers.

    Also, it's my understanding that processing LNG for export is more methane-intensive than CG delivery. I worry we'll soon be exporting all the cleaner burning benefits while incurring all the environmental hazards. I live in SEPA, where there's much hope that the refineries in Delaware County will be retrofitted as LNG facilities. I'm concerned about the confluence of high pressure transmission lines, and all the associated emissions, headed our way. Sadly, when the ill effects of air pollution become evident, it's usually too late.

    thanks for the post

  2. John,

    Recently I've been reading many articles that suggest global warming is not taking place. In fact many of these articles suggest that the earth is actually going into a cooling phase; and man made global warming is just a man-made global myth. The articles are backed by credible sources, professors at Penn State, Duke, Minnesota State and other large universities. Could you please write a post that examines both sides of global warming argument to help shed some light on what seems to be new developments in the global warming data.

    Thanks much,

    Jerry Blankenship

  3. Your question can be answered by actual data and not modeling. Professor Muller of the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project led a team on the most comprehensive study ever on the actual temperature data. Professor Muller's work was partially funded by the Koch Brothers, funders of all kinds of work to deny global warming. Professor Muller who is a physicist was described by Scientific American this way: "Muller's views on climate have made him the darling of the climate skeptics." His study was published in October 2011. The massive study found that warming had already taken place at about .91 degrees celsius. The study found that the rate of warming is accelerating. The study found that the rate of warming continued to accelerate during 1998 to 2010, when temperatures accelerated at a rate equal to 2.84 degrees celsius over a century. I posted on this study in the October, 2011 archives at You can see Muller's study at The actual primary data prove warming and the acceleration of the rate of warming, including from 1998 to 2010.

  4. you might want to watch the RNN news stations recent video of a Cabot well site-in a school yard- where the reporter asks George Stark "what am I smelling?" why he answers that is methane-then he adds it is the additive that make the smell-although he personally cannot smell it...good viewing!