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Monday, June 4, 2012

Gas industry claims methane leakage is half of US EPA estimate

The American Petroleum Institute and America's Natural Gas Alliance has released a survey that claims that methane emissions from natural gas production are 50% below US Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

The survey focus on methane emissions from two sources: liquids unloading and venting, and re-fracking (as opposed to the initial fracking) of gas wells.  The findings on the latter subject result from survey data that indicates that the workover, or re-fracture, rate of wells is actually significantly lower than EPA has estimated.

The survey merits close reading.

More data and additional analysis on methane emissions is obviously needed. Because methane is 25 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, it is essential - and urgent - that methane emissions from gas production, transport, and distribution be driven as low as possible. In April, US EPA promulgated new regulations that require green completions/reduced emission completions at high pressure wells like shale gas wells by 2015 (87% of coal bed methane gas wells are low-pressure and are not covered).  2015 may not be soon enough.

The API/ANGA report says that the information contained in the survey would shift the gas industry from the US' largest source of methane emissions to the second largest - behind livestock production.  But second place is not good enough.  The industry is making strides, and can and must do better.  Action on methane emissions is being demanded by investors here and in Europe; industry leaders have voiced support for it as in their companies' economic interests.  


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