About 60% of Methane is Released By Oil and Gas Operations than EPA Thought, Study Shows
Based on a study which was released on Thursday, it has been discovered that oil and natural gas operations in the U.S. release 60% more methane. The study shows that this is the current percentage than the earlier projected one stated by the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a press release from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado.
However, the recent study which was issued in Science estimated that the annual amount of methane emissions from the oil and gas industries in the U.S. totals 13 million metric tons. It is important to know that these emissions are from leaks, equipment malfunctions, and other “irregular” operating conditions. The climatic effects of these leaks in 2015 were the same as the climatic effect of CO2 emissions from all U.S. coal-powered plants that operated that year, the study finds out.
The co-author of the study, Jeff Peischl, who is a CIRES scientist working in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Division in Boulder, Colorado said in the release: “This study provides the best estimate to date on the climate impact of oil and gas activity in the United States.” He also added this: “It’s the culmination of 10 years of studies by scientists across the country, many of which were spearheaded by CIRES and NOAA.”
According to scientists, methane has more detrimental effects on our climate. Methane also has more warming impact of CO2 over the first twenty years after it has been emitted into the atmosphere. The methane emissions measured by the research work were up to 2.3% of natural gas production in the United States which is enough to cause the increase in atmospheric temperatures. The methane that is lost according to leakages is valued at $2 billion, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, which is enough to heat the homes in the U.S.
The study examines the estimations gotten from 400 well pads in six oil and natural gas production areas and amenities, including tanks and other facilities. Also, estimations were recorded from large swaths of the U.S. oil and natural gas facilities. This study was organized by the Environmental Defense Fund, and they had to draw 16 research scientists from different universities including the University of Colorado, Boulder and the University of Texas, Austin.
The authors of the research work said that this menace can be put to halt if the oil and gas industry work together to investigate and repair pipeline leakages.
“Natural gas emissions can, in fact, be significantly reduced if properly monitored. Identifying the biggest leakers could substantially reduce emissions that we have measured.” This was said by the Colm Sweeney, another co-author and Natural Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientist.
When these industries achieve this, it would be in their best interest so as to save the planet from the emission of methane into the atmosphere.
“This is a solvable problem because you are losing product that could sell. But the entire industry has to take action to stop the problem,” Steven Hamburg, study co-author and lead scientist of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) told Reuters.
Natural gas is a cheap widely used source of energy and it is seen as a better alternative to other fossil fuels because it emits only half as much CO2.
Furthermore, big oil companies like ExxonMobil and Shell have ascertained their commitment to reduce the emissions of methane in order to combat climate change.
Although these companies didn’t say anything on the target there would love to achieve to reduce these emissions but they assured to “continually reduce methane emissions; advance strong performance across gas value chains; improve the accuracy of methane emissions data; advocate sound policies and regulations on methane emissions, and increase transparency.”
Peischl said that the study was based on 10 years of research and other previous research works to arrive at its conclusions. The study also stated that the EPA underestimated the emission due to the fact that it asked the industry for permission to take estimates and conclusions and as a result, workers likely tightened up any leakages before their visit.
The American Petroleum Institute (API) which is the main institute that represents the oil and gas industry in the U.S responded to the research and it has focused on how these companies have decreased the emission of methane. Nevertheless, the institute said that the emission of fossil fuels has decreased to 14% since 1990 and the use of natural gas has increased so far. API questioned the facts and methods of the study, saying that is has exaggerated the emissions.
Meanwhile, Hamburg made it known to Reuters that the efforts of Trump’s administration to converse the rule of the past government under the leadership of Barack Obama didn’t have any impact on EPA’s conclusions concerning the emission of methane, but it has the certainty to impact other assertions.
Hamburg said, “The data is saying the problem is worse than we thought, the need for regulation is thus that much greater.”