An environmental group today unveiled some of the nuts and bolts of a seven-year study on the impacts of oil and gas extraction in America that states methane emission levels are much higher than Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

What the study found

The study, published today in the journal “Science,” says the U.S. oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane from its operations each year – nearly 60 percent more than current Environmental Protection Agency estimates. It calls for a reduction in the amount of methane released.

Why they say this is important

Burning of natural gas creates CO2, which goes into the environment. The study states that the production process for harvesting natural gas has been releasing so much methane, which converts to C02 in the atmosphere, that the carbon footprint of using natural gas as a fuel source is doubled.

What does EDF want

Among other things, EDF wants “a 45 percent reduction in global oil and gas methane emissions by 2025 – a goal that would have the same short-term climate benefit as closing one-third of the world's coal plants when achieved.”

What is methane? 

Methane is a greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it is released, according to EDF. It is also the main ingredient in natural gas, and if recovered at the well site it becomes a saleable commodity.

What the oil and gas Industry said:

Two industry groups called the study and its methodology into question, citing EPA numbers that show decreases in methane levels.

RELATED: Some large producers seeing declines in methane emissions

Which companies are working on cutting emissions?

BP set its first quantitative methane target this April. 

ExxonMobil committed in May to cut methane emissions and flared gas volumes. Earlier, ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy announced a methane reduction program. 

Shell, Qatar Petroleum and “a host of other producers have committed to continuously reduce methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain,” EDF said in a release.

Who did the study?

The paper was led by EDF researchers, their press release said, “with support from 19 coauthors from 15 other institutions, and integrates over half a decade of research by a large community of scientists.”  They say more than 140 researchers from 40 institutions were coauthors on the underlying papers. Fifty oil and gas companies provided site access and technical advice.

What is the study’s scope?

“The findings reported feature measurements at over 400 well pads in six basins and scores of midstream facilities,” EDF said, “data from component measurements, and aerial surveys covering large swaths of the U.S. oil and gas infrastructure. “

What is the EDF?

Environmental Defense Fund,, is an international nonprofit organization that describes itself as linking “science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships.”

Source: Environmental Defense Fund and Farmington Daily Times research.


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