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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