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More Methane Could Be Leaking From Oil And Gas Fields Than The Government Thinks

Gabriel C. Pérez

The oil and gas industry is releasing 60 percent more methane than the Environmental Protection Agency currently estimates, according to a study published in latest edition of Science.

That’s bad news when it comes to global warming.

The study was led by the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund, with industry and academic support. It found that much of the extra emissions likely come from gas venting from equipment at oil and gas wells.

Steve Hamburg, chief scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, said fixing this would be relatively simple.

“This is really a situation where the existing technology could radically reduce emissions and do it in a cost-effective way,” he said.

Methane is 8o times more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to warming the Earth’s atmosphere in the short term, though it dissipates from the atmosphere more quickly.

“The stark finding from this work is that the methane emissions from the supply chain are large enough that it essentially doubles the climate footprint of natural gas in the short term,” said Ramon Alvarez, a scientist with the EDF.

Other studies, including one from the International Energy Agency, have found that industry could greatly reduce accidental methane emissions at minimal cost by upgrading and maintaining equipment or even make money capturing it to sell as natural gas.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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