Concerns about the methane problem associated with the U.S. natural gas boom are mounting with each study released, according to a blog post by the Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF'S) Steven Hamburg.
Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado (UC) at Boulder recently reported an "alarmingly high" level of methane emissions in the Uintah Basin of Utah — 6.2 to 11.7 percent of total production for an area about 1,000 square miles, according to EDF.
The article notes that the new report follows earlier reports on leakage from natural gas drilling that indicted leakage rates of 17 percent and 4 percent, respectively. "Taken together, these studies are troubling," EDF wrote. "They should be regarded as alarm bells ringing in our ears. Action by policymakers and industry is needed now."
"Any amount of methane lost from the natural gas supply chain should be eliminated whenever possible. That's because methane retains heat much more effectively relative to carbon dioxide: Over the first 20 years, an ounce of methane traps in heat 72 times more efficiently. Even small amounts vented or released as 'fugitives' - unintentional methane leaked as gas moves from the field to your doorstep - can reduce or eliminate the climate advantage we think we're getting when we substitute natural gas for coal or oil," EDF wrote.
"By comparison, the latest estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggest that 1.5 percent of total U.S. natural gas production was lost to venting or leakage in 2011," EDF notes. "We have a lot of work to do to understand the apparent disparities between different estimates and studies."
To read the Environmental Defense Fund blog post, click here.