Thursday, April 19, 2012

Key EPA Air Rule Cuts Natural Gas Emissions

Even prior to the final EPA gas drilling air rule, gas emitted virtually no soot, mercury, or lead, while coal and oil emit a lot of some or all of many of those pollutants. That makes gas cleaner than coal oil in many ways that affect human health.

But the leakage rate of methane from gas production does matter for climate impacts and has been put at very different levels by different studies. The EPA in 2013 has lowered its estimate of the leakage rate, but everybody agrees the gas leakage rate can and must be reduced.  And so the EPA final rule that takes affect in 2014 is good news, because it slashes by 95% emissions of volatile organic compounds during gas production. It also cuts methane emissions.

The rule also means that shale gas may emit less methane than other sources of natural gas.  Here is why.

The rule requires green completions/reduced emission completions must be used at high pressure wells like shale gas wells. Virtually all shale gas wells will be green completed by January 1, 2015. Yet, the rule does not require green completions at low-pressure wells (87% of coal bed methane gas wells are low-pressure).

Shale gas development also typically has newer gathering systems and newer equipment generally, because it is the most recent. Newer pipelines and equipment reduce methane leakage, compared to older systems that serve typically conventional gas fields.


  1. now if we could just get the gas companies to drill a proper gas well and not to spill or leave valves open or to vent and flare.....

  2. This is all false. Natural gas emits methane gas into the atmosphere at a greater rate than carbon monoxcide and contributes to greenhouse gases more than crude oil or coal. Someone is receiving contributions from the natural gas industry, now aren't they? You had my vote. You lost my vote. Best of luck with your greed and lies! :)

    1. Bri: There are 2 important questions of fact here. Does gas, coal, or oil emit carbon dioxide/heat trapping gas? Other than heat trapping gas, which fossil fuel when burnt emits less of the other pollutants--soot, mercury, arsenic, lead, sulfur dioxide, and the like? Nobody disagrees that burning coal or oil emits much more than gas of all pollutants (other than heat trapping gas). Breathing soot alone that comes from coal and diesel kills 34,000 people per year in the USA so that difference matters a lot. There is disagreement about the life cycle emissions of heat trapping gas from coal, oil, gas. The leakage rates of gas have been found by different studies to vary widely. Everybody who is studying this matter and getting better information agrees that reducing leakage rates from gas can and should be done. The EPA rule requiring green completions of high pressure gas wells starting in January 2015 will cut the leakage rate of gas significantly. And that is a good thing. And that rule has been attacked by the gas industry. I have supported that rule and many others that the gas industry hates. I wrote the moratorium on gas drilling in the state forests. I support the right of local communities to zone. I support a gas drilling tax. I support much stronger enforcement of rules. I referred XTO to the AG for possible criminal prosecution. I doubled the gas inspectors and will double them again. I shutdown Cabot from drilling in Dimock. For all these reasons, the gas industry wants anyone but me as Governor. I cannot be fooled by them. And I won't pander to you. Coal, oil, gas, nuclear all have major environmental risks and all must be strongly regulated. Most importantly, we must accelerate better energy choices. That's why I have done more for renewable energy and energy efficiency than anyone in Pennsylvania and why I will do even more to speed up wind, solar, renewables, energy efficiency.