Drexel Study Claims Fugitive Methane Increasing in the Marcellus

For those of us in a certain generation, you will recognize this: Fred, Daphne, Shaggy, Velma…and of course, Scooby-Doo! If you were raised watching cartoons on Saturday morning, and you watched Scooby-Doo, do you remember the name of the van they traveled around in? That’s right, the Mystery Machine! An image of the Mystery Machine is what floated through our brain as we read about the latest venture in researching air quality in Pennsylvania near drilling sites. Researchers from Drexel University (in Philadelphia) set out across Marcellus territory in “Drexel’s Mobile Laboratory, a Ford cargo van equipped with all the equipment necessary for measuring concentrations of chemicals and particles in the air at 1-10 second intervals while driving.” The Mystery Machine! And what, pray tell, did our intrepid Marcellus sleuths find be-bopping around the countryside? In the recently published study, “Analysis of local-scale background concentrations of methane and other gas-phase species in the Marcellus Shale” (full copy below), researchers say they found that even though the number of Marcellus wells being drilled has slowed quite a bit over the past few years, the amount of fugitive methane in the air has increased. And the increase can’t be explained by a general global increase in fugitive methane. The increase in fugitive methane in the Marcellus is due, our methane sleuths say, to the “increased production of natural gas from the region which has increased significantly over the 2012 to 2015 period.” The researchers conclude that “because everybody knows how evil and nasty fugitive methane is for global warming” (our words), this study is yet more evidence that Marcellus shale drilling (and pipelines, etc.) leak so much methane as to make any benefits we get from extracting and burning methane, over say coal, muted–even lost. Because we can’t put a cork in it, by extracting and using methane we’re making poor old Mom Earth even sicker. Which is, of course, total bunkum…

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