Barnett methane emissions higher than estimated – study finds

Methane molecules
Source: DollarPhotoClub

A recently published report shows that methane leakage levels have been significantly underestimated by the Environmental Protection Agency when it comes to shale gas and oil production in the Barnett play.

The group of scientists and researches supervised by Robert Talbot, a University of Houston atmospheric chemistry professor, found the region may be emitting almost 50 per cent more methane than previous EPA estimates indicated.

Methane, which can be released during shale gas and oil production, is the main component of natural gas but is 34 times more damaging than carbon dioxide in terms of greenhouse gasses. The study found that at some of the sites they tested the amount of methane escaping in to the atmosphere was far worse for the climate than coal or oil production.

As part of the study, scientist examined 152 sites located in the Barnett territory in Texas during October 2013. According to their results methane leakage was detected at almost all sites with the levels ranging from 0.01 percent to 47.8 percent of natural gas produced, with compressor stations and processing plants having the highest rates.

However, the scientists shared their opinion that the methane leakages were mainly due to construction malfunction or inappropriate well management.

“A lot of it is human error. Somebody will leave a hatch open, and nobody goes back to the facility for more than a month, so it’s leaking this huge amount of methane out of the top,” said Robert Talbot. “We’re hoping now that most of the companies will take a look at what they’re doing, and go ahead and do good maintenance.”

Additional reporting by Dmitrii Zaitsev.

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