New Study: Methane Emissions Half of EPA’s Previous Estimates

A new study just released by America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API) finds that methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing are at least 50% less than estimates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). And this is not a wild, unsubstantiated claim by “the industry.” ANGA and API have the science to prove it.

The new study (full copy embedded below) takes the most comprehensive look at the data to date—data from 91,000 U.S. natural gas producing wells. That’s a sample size 10 times larger than the EPA used in their estimates.

Here’s some of the stunning results found by the new study:

Greenhouse gas emissions from certain natural gas production activities are up to 86 percent lower than estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a study released today from URS Corp. and The LEVON Group.  The study, sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), takes the most comprehensive look to date at the issue, analyzing data from nearly 20 percent of all U.S. natural gas-producing wells-a sample size more than 10 times larger than EPA’s.

"The EPA has been upfront that its data is limited in scope. This study confirms that EPA’s estimates on emissions from operations are vastly exaggerated," said Tom Amontree, Executive Vice President at America’s Natural Gas Alliance.  "As our nation strives to move toward a cleaner energy future, natural gas is an essential tool that is already resulting in substantial real-world progress. It is our hope that all stakeholders who aim for credible, science-based decision making and dialogue will take note of these findings and more fully consider the vast potential of this cleaner American energy source."

Specifically, the study found that methane emissions from natural gas operations such as liquids unloading (a technique used to remove water and other liquids from the wellbore to improve the flow of natural gas) are 86 percent lower than EPA estimated. In addition, the study shows that methane emissions from refractured wells (a technique used to prolong production of an existing gas-producing well) are 72 percent lower than EPA estimates. Overall, the study finds that greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production are as much as 50 percent lower than figures used by EPA.

The study’s findings are based on an analysis of data from more than 91,000 U.S. natural gas wells operated across diverse geographic areas by more than 20 companies. The data set represents nearly one-fifth (approximately 18.8 percent) of U.S. wells. The survey was undertaken after EPA, in 2011, introduced new calculation methods for estimating the amount of methane emissions from natural gas operations.

Natural gas producers are committed to developing abundant American natural gas safely and responsibly to protect the environment, create jobs, improve air quality and promote U.S. energy security. Natural gas is already, and will increasingly be, an important component of America’s clean energy future, economic health and national security. And, our commitment to safe and responsible development means communities do not need to make a choice between environmental protection and economic advancement, Americans can have both.

"For both power generation and transportation, natural gas is a far cleaner alternative," Amontree said.  "This study confirms for policymakers and the public that the production process does not negate those benefits.  Equally important, natural gas companies are continually striving to further reduce their environmental impact."*

Finally, some real science to counterbalance the hype and junk science propagated by people like Cornell professors Robert Howarth and Tony Ingraffea who claim that burning coal is actually cleaner than using natural gas because of the methane emissions “issue” (see this MDN story). Not that the enviro-left will ever shut up when they’ve been proven wrong (yet again)…but one can always dream.

*America’s Natural Gas Alliance (Jun 4, 2012) – Methane Emissions From Hydraulic Fracturing of Unconventional Natural Gas Wells Are Half What EPA Estimated