Methane leaks at US petroleum operations far worse than previously estimated – study — Analysis

Stanford University researchers claim that New Mexico’s pipelines and wells are leaking large quantities of methane.

Stanford University researchers have found that New Mexico’s pipelines and oil wells emit significantly more methane per unit of energy than was previously reported. Global warming is caused by methane, which has been shown to have a much greater impact than carbon dioxide.

A fresh analysis of aerial data collected over the Permian Basin indicates that oil and gas facilities there are giving off 194 metric tons of methane per hour– a figure six times as high as the latest estimate from the US Environmental Protection Agency. The alarming study, authored by Yuanlei Chen and Evan Sherwin, was published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology on Wednesday.

Two researchers shared their shock at first seeing the shocking results. Dr. Sherwin, a postdoctoral research fellow in energy resources engineering at Stanford, told The New York Times that he and his colleague had “Really, we spent the last two years thinking backwards about how wrong things might have been and talking to other experts in methane.” He noted that, after initial doubts, the researchers “This was our most accurate estimate of methane emissions for the region at that time. We had to publish it.

Wastewater problem could cap US shale growth

Each site was measured several times by the researchers. Methane levels can fluctuate over time and wells may occasionally release gas intentionally in venting. But, methane can leak from the ground by itself due to ageing or malfunctioning equipment.

According to the study, a relatively small number of wells are responsible for the “vast majority” of methane leaks, indicating that, by addressing issues at those problematic sites, the overall levels of methane emission could potentially be kept in check.

Traditionally, natural gas is considered to be a ‘cleaner’ source of energy compared to other hydrocarbons, with officials in the US and elsewhere promoting it as a viable transition option from ‘dirty’ coal to renewables. This latest study shows that natural gas is not so benign as people think. Its production results in high levels of methane and a greater warming potential than carbon dioxide.

According to the researchers behind this study, similar measures are required at different oil and natural gas sites in the US. This latest American research covers approximately 27,000 wells.

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