New Study Final Nail in Coffin of Inflated Fugitive Methane Claims

final nail in the coffinIn 2011 Cornell professors Robert Howarth and Anthony (Tony) Ingraffea published a study that claimed drilling for natural gas is actually worse than burning coal because extracting natural gas leads to high levels of “fugitive methane” escaping into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming (see New Cornell University Study Says Shale Gas Extraction Worse for Global Warming Than Coal). It was a “you can’t really be serious” moment, calling into question the academic rigor (or lack thereof) at Cornell. The problem with Howarth and Ingraffea’s work is that it was all theoretical–no actual data measurements on which they based their claims.

A peer-reviewed study by MIT was later published using actual data that roundly refuted the work of Howarth and Ingraffea (see New MIT Study on Fugitive Methane Discredits Cornell Study). Now, a second peer-reviewed study has just been published by in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Titled “Measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the United States” (full copy embedded below), the study uses data from 190 actual well sites and calculates that less than half of one percent (0.42% on average) of natural gas escapes from well sites during extraction (“fugitive methane”). This is much less than Howarth and Ingraffea “estimated” with their theoretical study. This new study puts the final nail in the coffin of efforts to discredit natural gas drilling as worse than coal based on wildly inflated fugitive methane numbers…
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Newest Gulfport Utica Wells Disappoint with Methane Production

Last week Gulfport Energy prepared the markets (i.e. investors) to receive some “bad news”–lower-than-expected third quarter production numbers for their Utica Shale wells, partially due to lack of a pipeline hookup to a single well (see Delayed Pipeline to Single Gulfport Utica Well Impacts Market). Today Gulfport released production numbers for three Utica wells. To our eye, it seems lack of infrastructure is not the only reason Gulfport lowered expectations for 3Q13 production. The newest wells coming online for Gulfport are not producing anywhere near the amount of methane their previously announced monster wells produce. For example, the Stutzman well in Belmont County well produced an initial 21 million cubic feet of natural gas per day (see Mind-blowing Earnings from a Single Utica Shale Well). That’s to be expected. Not every well you drill is a home run.

Even though Gulfport’s newest wells are under-performers vis a vis methane (2.0-9.7 million cubic feet per day), they produce more than enough condensate and natural gas liquids to make up for it. Interestingly, all three of Gulfport’s newest wells are in Harrison County, OH…
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PA Endangered Species List New Flash Point in Drilling Debate

Ever hear of a rabbitsfoot mussel? Neither had we. It’s a small freshwater mollusk that lives in Pennsylvania streams. It’s also on PA’s (but not the federal EPA’s) endangered species list. The PA endangered species list is the target of proposed new legislation that would remove the rabbitsfoot mussel (indeed all species now on the list) from being on the list.

The endangered species list is the next flash point in the Marcellus Shale drilling debate in PA. The Marcellus Shale Coalition, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA) and other industry groups support the legislation which they say will speed up the review process for drilling in some areas without hurting threatened species (by removing some of the red tape). Conservationists and anti-drillers think otherwise…
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Gas Drilling Helps Save a Piece of African American History in PA

Next door to Dimock (in Susquehanna County), PA is the other story about gas drilling you almost never hear about in mainstream media: How gas drilling is helping preserve an historic African America farm that dates back to the early 1800s. The reason you don’t hear much about it is because Denise Dennis, heir and president of the Dennis Farm Charitable Land Trust, changed her view on gas drilling. Three years ago Dennis gave a stirring anti-drilling speech at a Philadelphia City Council meeting saying extracting natural gas was as dirty as coal mining. Last year about this time, she signed a gas lease with Cabot Oil & Gas for $800,000 (see Leading Anti-Driller Does 180, Signs Lease with Cabot in PA). It was an about-face for Dennis…
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WV Group Seeks Volunteers to Sample Rivers/Streams Near Fracking

Increasingly MDN receives a lot of email from both pro- and anti-drilling organizations and groups. We select only those items that we believe would be of interest to you. Below is one such item. A few days ago we received a forwarded email from someone working with the Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ), a water monitoring program managed by the WV Water Research Institute. West Virginia University also has some sort of involvement, according to the 3RQ website.

3RQ is looking for volunteers for their water monitoring program in WV–people to take water samples from rivers and streams “down wind” (or rather downstream) from active shale drilling sites. We fully expect most people who participate in the program are anti-drilling in philosophy. However, good science is good science. MDN believes it would be a good will gesture for pro-drillers to also volunteer…
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