Your Natural Gas Boom Is Leaking
ByIE Staff and Contributors |
Methane, a potent greenhouse gas, spewed from an underground natural gas storage field in southern California called Aliso Canyon in late 2015, causing health problems and mass evacuations. This wasn’t just California’s problem: It was a wake-up call about challenges facing our vast, nationwide natural gas infrastructure. U.S. energy strategy hinges on the idea that burning natural gas has a smaller carbon footprint than coal–but that’s only true if no more than two to four percent of natural gas escapes. Inside Energy is covering the ongoing story of natural gas leaks in pursuit of the question, is natural gas truly a cleaner fossil fuel?
While the head of the EPA goes on a tour of 25 states, the agency is rolling back a host of environmental regulations — including trying to delay implementation of Obama-era methane rules at oil and gas wells. Some residents and environmental groups are taking action, concerned that methane leaks lead to poor air quality.
Natural gas has lower emissions than other fossil fuels, and so it is often touted as a “bridge fuel” to ease our country’s transition from big polluters like coal and oil to a cleaner, greener, low-carbon energy future. But methane leaks as a result of natural gas production may put that clean gas bridge in doubt.
Burning natural gas for electricity is much cleaner than coal. But there’s a problem – leaking methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Nearly 2 years ago Colorado implemented rules to try to limit methane leaks from natural gas infrastructure. Now the EPA is proposing to model federal rules on Colorado’s. Still finding and plugging leaks remains a challenge nationwide. In Pennsylvania, where thousands of gas wells and pipelines are working the Marcellus Shale, researchers are trying to figure out how much is leaking. For our Inside Energy project, The Allegheny Front’s Reid Frazier tagged along.
Researchers at Colorado State University have released the results of a nearly $2 million dollar study measuring oil and gas emissions on the state’s Western Slope. Data from this study could contribute to our understanding of the health impacts of the oil and gas industry.
Four and a half months after a torrent of methane burst from a storage field owned by Southern California Gas Co., damaging the atmosphere and contributing to climate effects like beach erosion, wildfire and extreme hot days, a plan has been drafted for the company to largely repair that damage.
Colorado’s connection between people and drilling goes back much further than the recent frenzy of oil and gas development: Coloradans aren’t just living among new wells, they are also living among – and sometimes on top of – wells drilled and abandoned decades ago.
The storage well that has leaked massive amounts of methane in southern California was operated at high and potentially unsafe levels in the days leading up to the leak’s discovery, according to an inewsource investigation.
Inside Energy’s Jordan Wirfs-Brock explains how and why the massive methane leak from an underground natural gas storage facility in California matters to Colorado and to the oil and gas industry here.
The massive methane leak in southern California is spurring calls for greater oversight of natural gas infrastructure nationwide. The Environmental Defense Fund says the federal government should look at a Colorado law that regulates inspection and maintenance.
Methane is spewing from an underground natural gas storage field in southern California called Aliso Canyon at a rate of 50,000 kg per hour – the equivalent of 5 million full-grown cows. The leak is causing health problems, air traffic detours, and mass evacuations. And because methane is a potent greenhouse gas, its contribution to global warming is like having three extra coal-fired power plants. This isn’t just California’s problem: In addition to those direct consequences, Aliso Canyon is a wake-up call about the challenges facing our natural gas infrastructure. U.S. energy strategy, as outlined by the new Clean Power Plan, hinges on the idea that burning natural gas has a smaller carbon footprint than burning coal.
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative of partners across the US and supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting