February 10, 2015 | Environmental Science and Technology | Multiple Authors
The academic journal Environmental Science and Technology today released the results of two Colorado State University-led studies on methane emissions in the natural gas industry. The studies, the most comprehensive of their kind to date, looked at emissions at both the gathering and processing stages of natural gas extraction as well as at transmission and storage systems–the network of pipelines which transport natural gas around the US.
A Colorado State University press release on the studies quotes lead author, CSU mechanical engineering professor Anthony Marchese:
“This is an exciting study because it is, by far, the largest and most comprehensive data set ever collected on direct methane emissions from the gathering sector. The results point to the gathering sector likely being a notable source of emissions and identify areas where emission reductions can be achieved.”
In a call with reporters this morning, the authors of the two studies said they found emissions were concentrated in a small minority of the facilities tested, and that often these “super emitters” could be attributed to a leaky or broken valve or equipment that was simply not properly calibrated.
The authors also found emissions highest at facilities which are not currently required to report to the federal government. Only large gathering facilities are required to report emissions to the E.P.A. The studies found that approximately 30 percent of the gathering facilities accounted for nearly 80 percent of the methane emissions measured. Moreover, the methodology they used to track methane at compressor stations found 2.9 times more methane emissions than the methodology used by government agencies.
The studies were two of 16 organized by the Environmental Defense Fund with participation of several gas producers. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is a powerful greenhouse gas.
At Inside Energy, we’ve been looking at the problem of methane emissions since our infancy. Here’s one of our first stories, on Colorado’s rules on methane emissions.
Also, just a couple of weeks ago, the Obama Administration announced the first ever national plan to regulate methane emissions.