by Samantha Page Aug 18, 2015 2:17pm
CREDIT: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
A natural gas burn near Williston, N.D. Burning off natural gas is significantly cleaner than letting the methane leak.
Natural gas gathering and processing plants leak much more methane than producers have reported, and even more than the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated, according to a study released Tuesday.
Researchers at Colorado State University found that U.S. gathering and processing facilities — where natural gas from nearby wells is consolidated for distribution through pipelines — leak 2,421,000 metric tons of methane each year. The facilities emit 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas every year, roughly eight times the amount previously estimated by the EPA.
Gathering facilities “could be responsible for something like 30 percent of emissions for all natural gas production,” the study’s lead researcher, Anthony Marchese, said on a press call Tuesday.
Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 86 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. It is the primary ingredient in natural gas.
The amount of emissions tracked in the study has roughly the same 20-year climate impact as 37 coal-fired power plants, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said. The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, is part of a series of studies organized by EDF that will compose the largest inventory of methane leaks in the U.S. natural gas industry to date. An earlier report in the series found that oil and gas operations on federal and tribal lands leaked $360 million worth of fuel in 2013.