A new study reveals that Utah’s lax laws have led to large leaks of natural gas
Methane is being emitted from a natural gas field in Utah at a rate of 6.2 to 11.7 percent of production, according to research accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
The research adds one important data point to the ongoing question of how much methane, a greenhouse gas with a warming potential 25 times that of carbon dioxide, is emitted in the life cycle of natural gas production, transport and use. It was conducted by a team of scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Earth System Research Laboratory.
Study co-author Colm Sweeney pointed out the discrepancy between the emissions rate his research team measured and what U.S. EPA has said it estimates as an emissions rate for the natural gas production sector.
“The important point is that we saw something that was a lot larger than these inventory methods that EPA relies on,” he said.
EPA’s emissions rate for the production sector is 0.88 percent. It was revised downward this year from 1.4 percent.
Sweeney said the method his team uses, flying over a basin with instruments to get a total methane emissions rate, could be used to verify the rates EPA uses.
However, the researcher was quick to caution that those concerned about leak rates from natural gas production should not try to use the numbers from the Uinta Basin, the Utah gas field where these measurements were taken, as representative of leak rates from all gas fields.