“Alarmingly high methane emissions” from oil and gas fields reported online by the journal Nature on January 2nd, raise questions about industry and legislative promotion of “clean” natural gas as a low greenhouse gas emitting alternative to other fossil fuels.
Reported in Nature News:
The researchers, who hold joint appointments with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado in Boulder, first sparked concern in February 2012 with a study1 suggesting that up to 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. If methane — a potent gas — is leaking from fields across the country at similar rates, it could be offsetting much of the climate benefit of the ongoing shift from coal- to gas-fired plants for electricity generation.
Industry officials and some scientists contested the claim, but at an American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, California, last month, the research team reported new Colorado data that support the earlier work, as well as preliminary results from a field study in the Uinta Basin of Utah suggesting even higher rates of methane leakage — an eye-popping 9% of the total production. That figure is nearly double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data — which are already higher in Utah than in Colorado.
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