U.S. methane emissions flat since 2006 despite increased oil and gas activity

phys.org | 6/14/2016 | Staff
Zorra (Posted by) Level 4
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Natural gas production in the United States has increased 46 percent since 2006, but there has been no significant increase of total US methane emissions and only a modest increase from oil and gas activity, according to a new NOAA study.

The finding is important because it's based on highly accurate measurements of methane collected over 10 years at 20 long-term sampling sites around the country in NOAA's Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network, said lead author Xin Lan, a CIRES scientist working at NOAA.

Decade - Worth - Data - Increase - Downwind

"We analyzed a decade's worth of data and while we do find some increase in methane downwind of oil and gas activity, we do not find a statistically significant trend in the US for total methane emissions," said Lan. The study was published in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters.

The study did not attempt to quantify oil and gas methane emissions or methane emissions overall, but sought only to identify whether emissions were increasing by looking at enhancements in methane atmospheric concentration.

Analysis - Increases - Methane - Emissions - Oil

The new analysis showed increases in methane emissions from oil and gas activity of 3.4 percent ± 1.4 percent per year – or up to 10 times lower than some recent studies which derived their methane trend by measuring levels of another petroleum hydrocarbon, ethane. Overall though, methane concentrations in US air samples were shown to be increasing at the same rate as the global background, meaning there was no statistically significant increase in total methane from the US.

Methane is a component of natural gas, but it can also be generated by biological sources, such as decaying wetland vegetation, as a byproduct of ruminant digestion, or even by termites. Ethane is a hydrocarbon emitted during oil and natural gas production and is sometimes used as a tracer for oil and gas activity. By measuring ethane, which is...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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