Fracking for shale gas has 'dramatically increased' global methane emissions, scientists warn

Mail Online | 8/14/2019 | Peter Lloyd for MailOnline
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The boom in fracking for shale gas has 'dramatically increased' global methane emissions in the past decade, a study has warned.

Much of the rapid rise in levels of methane, a significant greenhouse gas has been attributed to cows, tropical wetlands and rice fields but fracking also played a role.

Researchers - Cornell - University - Fingerprint - Methane

Researchers from Cornell University looked at the 'chemical fingerprint' of methane in the atmosphere and found a third of methane emissions in the past decade came from shale gas.

Methane levels rose steadily at the end of the 20th century before levelling off for the first decade of the 21st century.

Concern - Conservationists

But since 2008 they have been rising rapidly again, causing concern among conservationists.

If the rise continues in coming decades, it will significantly increase global warming and undercut efforts to meet international targets to curb dangerous climate change under the Paris Agreement, the study warns.

Methane - Sources - Chemical - Signature - Weight

Methane from different sources has a different chemical signature, relating to the weight of the carbon atom at the centre of the gas molecule.

Methane from fossil fuels has higher concentrations of the heavier carbon-13 variant compared with lighter carbon-12, while the gas emitted from biological sources is lighter, with less carbon-13.

Rise - Methane - Carbon - Composition - Gas

The rise in methane since 2008 has also seen the carbon composition of the gas change, with lower levels of carbon-13.

This led experts to attribute the spike to biological sources, most likely tropical wetlands, rice culture or animal agriculture.

Research - Methane - Process - Shale - Gas

But the research shows methane that leaks or is vented from the process of fracking for shale gas also has a lower carbon-13 content than conventional fossil fuels.

There has been a boom in the US exploiting shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which involves...
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