Tag Archive for: Methane

Oil companies agree to reduce methane emissions

A coalition of the world’s oil companies agreed to reduce methane emissions from natural gas extraction—part of an effort to shore up the climate credentials of the hydrocarbon.

The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative said it would target reducing methane emissions to less than 0.25% of the total natural gas the group of 13 member companies produces by 2025.

Methane is the main component of natural gas. During extraction, transport, and processing, it often leaks into the environment. Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. In the short term, it traps more heat although it stays shorter in the atmosphere. According to the International Energy Agency, one ton of methane is equivalent to as much as 87 tons of carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.

Natural gas production is growing. Many big oil companies are increasing production of natural gas to offset higher emissions from other hydrocarbon and coal sources. The switch makes the oil-and-gas industry look better when demonstrating emission reduction to limit climate change.

For that reason, some oil companies, Shell, in particular, has tilted its production mix toward more gas output.

According to 2018 report by the Environmental Defense Fund, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, as much as $34 billion of global gas supply is lost each year through leaks and venting. That is another valid reason to limit those methane escapes and park the proceeds to the bottom line. That in itself could fund part of the effort to stop or reduce the leaks.

 Natural Gas Usage Up with Leaky Consequences

Environment challenge: Use a cleaner resource without environmental impact.  The reality, even good environmental intentions produce by-products and/or have risk than need to be monitored. Check out this insightful article about natural gas.

Fact: Natural gas now produces 27 percent of the electricity generated in the United States, and the percentage is rising. Natural gas is cleaner than coal and at a lower price point.  But as with all energy producing resources, there is an enemy and in this case, the arch enemy is methane. What is worse, it is leaky. The New Times Editor, John Schwartz, digs in deep of the issues, long term implications, political policies, and environmental impact of natural gas.

NASA now says massive methane cloud over U.S. Southwest is legitimate

Several years ago, NASA scientists discovered a cloud of methane gas over the Four Corners of the American southwest that measured about the size of Delaware. The unusually high readings were dismissed then; however, a new study today confirms that the methane hot spot is legitimate.

“We didn’t focus on it because we weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” said NASA research scientist Christian Frankenberg, who works in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena, California.

The Christian Science Monitor website states that a 2,500 square mile methane cloud over the region where Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona connect traps more heat in a 1-year period than all of Sweden’s annual carbon dioxide emissions.

To provide an overview of gases that endanger the Earth’s atmosphere, methane gas is the most powerful of the greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is another greenhouse gas, and is more abundant in our atmosphere. However, methane is more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

A new study published 10 October 2014 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters takes a look at the data discovered several years ago and confirms what we now know to be North America’s largest methane hot spot. According to lead author of the study, Eric Kort, a professor of Atmospheric, Oceanic, and Space Sciences at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the source of the methane is from extensive coal mining activity in the San Juan Basin. According to Kort, the Basin is “the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.”

There has been a notable increase in fracking in that region. Both Kort and Frankenberg believe that the earlier coal mining is most likely to blame for the methane cloud.  From 2003 to 2009, the study shows there were 0.59 million metric tons of methane released each year — 3.5 times more than previous estimates.

According to Kort, “The results are indicative that emissions from established fossil fuel harvesting techniques are greater than inventoried. There’s been so much attention on high-volume hydraulic fracturing, but we need to consider the industry as a whole.”

Is the U.S. Emitting More Methane Than We Thought?

According to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the United States may be emitting 50 percent more methane than the federal government had originally estimated. Methane, a greenhouse gas, is less prevalent in our atmosphere than carbon but is also a more powerful heat-trapping gas- approximately 21 times more potent over a 100 year period.

The new study argues that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) underestimated methane emissions because it calculated from the bottom-up, whereas the new study took a different approach. The PNAS study, conducted by Scot M. Miller, a doctoral student in Earth and planetary sciences at Harvard University, along with researchers from seven other institutions, took measurements of methane actually released into the atmosphere. More specifically, it analyzed almost 5,000 air samples collected from tall towers around the U.S. in 2007 and 2008, and more than 7,700 samples taken over this same period by research aircrafts.

Based on their research, the following are a few conclusions that were reached:

  • Methane from Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas was 2.7 times higher than previously recorded (these three states alone account for nearly one-quarter of U.S. methane emissions)
  • Methane emissions from livestock are nearly two times as high as earlier measurements
  • Current atmospheric concentrations of methane are nearly triple the levels found in the preindustrial era; human activity being responsible for 50 to 65 percent of global methane emissions

These findings will no doubt impact the debate about how both regulators and industry should handle reducing methane emissions.

As if this isn’t enough of a reason for concern, new research published in Nature Geoscience finds that significant amounts of methane are currently escaping the East Siberian Shelf. This methane is stored on the floor of the Arctic Ocean, being held down by permafrost. However, it has been escaping recently due to both powerful storms stirring up the ocean that bring the methane to the surface faster, and global warming thawing the permafrost; creating a perpetual cycle.

This new research and press may be able to put the spotlight on a greenhouse gas other than carbon, and also on how important it is to reduce these methane emissions.