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Author Topic: Recent Study Shows Significantly Higher Methane Emissions from U.S. Oil and Gas  (Read 5796 times)

jai mitchell

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http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014EF000265/full

In the past decade, there has been a massive growth in the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing of shale gas and tight oil reservoirs to exploit formerly inaccessible or unprofitable energy resources in rock formations with low permeability. In North America, these unconventional domestic sources of natural gas and oil provide an opportunity to achieve energy self-sufficiency and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions when displacing coal as a source of energy in power plants. However, fugitive methane emissions in the production process may counter the benefit over coal with respect to climate change and therefore need to be well quantified. Here we demonstrate that positive methane anomalies associated with the oil and gas industries can be detected from space and that corresponding regional emissions can be constrained using satellite observations. On the basis of a mass-balance approach, we estimate that methane emissions for two of the fastest growing production regions in the United States, the Bakken and Eagle Ford formations, have increased by 990 ± 650 ktCH4 yr−1 and 530 ± 330 ktCH4 yr−1 between the periods 2006–2008 and 2009–2011. Relative to the respective increases in oil and gas production, these emission estimates correspond to leakages of 10.1% ± 7.3% and 9.1% ± 6.2% in terms of energy content, calling immediate climate benefit into question and indicating that current inventories likely underestimate the fugitive emissions from Bakken and Eagle Ford.


These estimates of leakage show that between 3% and 17% of all natural gas produced within the united states is leaked from production facilities.  Alvarez et. al. 2012  showed that leakages of 3-5% would make the 20-year climate impacts of modern combined cycle natural gas electricity production equivalent to new coal-fired power plants.

Alvarez (2012) http://www.pnas.org/content/109/17/6435.full.pdf+html

The implications here are that, besides current EPA emissions inventories being much lower than reality, the effects of switching from coal to natural gas, under the regime of current industry practices, is likely MUCH worse for the environment on a 20-year timeline and, if the high end estimates are correct, even worse on a 100-year timeline.
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Laurent

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Methane plume over western US illustrates climate cost of gas leaks
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jan/04/leaking-methane-gas-plume-us

JimD

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Methane emissions from natural gas industry higher than previously thought

http://phys.org/news/2015-02-methane-emissions-natural-gas-industry.html

The researchers discovered that a small fraction of facilities that collect, process and compress natural gas are responsible for a disproportionately high percentage of methane emissions. They also found that the EPA's new reporting program doesn't account for superemitters—sites that leak or vent large amounts of methane—or some equipment and operating modes that are major sources of the gas. They conclude that the program could be missing almost two thirds of the methane emissions from the natural gas system.


Abstract
Facility-level methane emissions were measured at 114 gathering facilities and 16 processing plants in the United States natural gas system. At gathering facilities, the measured methane emission rates ranged from 0.7 to 700 kg per hour (kg/h) (0.6 to 600 standard cubic feet per minute (scfm)). Normalized emissions (as a % of total methane throughput) were less than 1% for 85 gathering facilities and 19 had normalized emissions less than 0.1%. The range of methane emissions rates for processing plants was 3 to 600 kg/h (3 to 524 scfm), corresponding to normalized methane emissions rates <1% in all cases. The distributions of methane emissions, particularly for gathering facilities, are skewed. For example, 30% of gathering facilities contribute 80% of the total emissions. Normalized emissions rates are negatively correlated with facility throughput. The variation in methane emissions also appears driven by differences between inlet and outlet pressure, as well as venting and leaking equipment. Substantial venting from liquids storage tanks was observed at 20% of gathering facilities. Emissions rates at these facilities were, on average, around four times the rates observed at similar facilities without substantial venting.


Of course, since the value of natural gas has plummeted, getting someone to spend a lot of money fixing this problem is not going to be a smooth process.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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This new data that you post JimD suggests that new combined-cycle gas fired turbines are significantly worse for global warming effects on a per kWh generated basis than older coal fired systems, on a time scale that is at least 60 years! (and up to 90)



Caldeira & Zhang (2014)  http://phys.org/news/2014-12-natural-gas-bridge-hotter-future.html

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JimD

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jai

Just wandered back by this topic and saw your above post.

Not such good news...and then earlier today we were talking about Bejing switching from its coal plants to gas plants.  Makes me wonder what kind of gas plants now...How does that saying go?  Every silver lining has a cloud...or something like that.

And to the point I made earlier about low prices having a negative impact on maintenance and that making it hard to get a handle on this leakage problem.  In the last couple of days I posted the article from Berman indicating we might just see another big drop in gas prices. 

I will be visiting my brother in law who helps run a gas field maintenance company in a couple of months.  I have asked him before how hard they try to keep the leakage down.  When I last asked this prices were much higher than now and he indicated that they did try because the loss cost them money.  But now?  Is it still worth the trouble?  I will repeat that question to see if things are heading in the wrong direction as we might have reason to be concerned about.  I will also ask him about the equipment and truck write down issues and see what he says about that too.  Assuming he still has a job.  Layoffs are going like wildfire and he has been around long enough he is on the high wage end of things.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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There are new regulations being put into place for new wells but not for existing wells as far as I know.  Ask him if he knows of contracts for checking on abandoned wells.  Recent analysis is that 35% of all abandoned wells are venting methane, some at a rate of 3,000 cubic feet per year, or the equivalent of a typical gas-heated homes annual consumption, but since it has a 75 times warming over a 20 year period this would be equal to the GHG footprint of 75 homes.  and there are literally millions of wells.
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neal

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The actual global methane release from wells is probably much higher given that even voluntary limits do not exist in many parts of the world.  And the falling prices make it even less likely that escaping gas is worried about by the drillers.


jai mitchell

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Haiku of Past Futures
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Laurent

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Is it that link you wanted to post ? (Yours does not work for me)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5GrqGeGnpk
It does remind a recent news saying that what they thought to be an alien signal was in fact the special wave emitted by a microwave when it is open before the end of the cycle.  ;)

Neven

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Alien Secrets???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0wRbbzTdhQ

 :o :-X :P

That's a funny movie with an alternative explanation for global warming.
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jai mitchell

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Alien Secrets???

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e0wRbbzTdhQ

 :o :-X :P

That's a funny movie with an alternative explanation for global warming.

haha another great find on the ASIF!
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AbruptSLR

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The linked reference indicates that: "An instrument commonly used to measure leaks in natural gas infrastructure has a critical sensor transition failure issue that results in underestimation of leaks, with implications for greenhouse gas emissions estimates as well as safety."

Touché Howard, Thomas W. Ferrara & Amy Townsend-Small (2015), "Sensor transition failure in the high flow sampler: Implications for methane emission inventories of natural gas infrastructure", Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association; DOI:10.1080/10962247.2015.1025925


http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10962247.2015.1025925

Abstract: "Quantification of leaks from natural gas (NG) infrastructure is a key step in reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas methane (CH4), particularly as NG becomes a larger component of domestic energy supply. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) requires measurement and reporting of emissions of CH4 from NG transmission, storage, and processing facilities, and the high flow sampler (or high volume sampler) is one of the tools approved for this by the USEPA. The Bacharach Hi-Flow® Sampler (BHFS) is the only commercially available high flow instrument, and it is also used throughout the NG supply chain for directed inspection and maintenance, emission factor development, and greenhouse gas reduction programs. Here we document failure of the BHFS to transition from a catalytic oxidation sensor used to measure low NG (~5% or less) concentrations to a thermal conductivity sensor for higher concentrations (from ~5% to 100%), resulting in underestimation of NG emission rates. Our analysis includes both our own field testing as well as analysis of data from two other studies (Modrak et al., 2012; City of Ft Worth, 2011). Although this failure is not completely understood, and although we do not know if all BHFS models are similarly affected, sensor transition failure has been observed under one or more of these conditions: 1), calibration is more than ~2 weeks old; 2), firmware is out of date; or 3), the composition of the NG source is less than ~91% CH4. The extent to which this issue has affected recent emission studies is uncertain, but the analysis presented here suggests that the problem could be widespread. Furthermore, it is critical that this problem be resolved before the onset of regulations on CH4 emissions from the oil and gas industry, as the BHFS is a popular instrument for these measurements."

See also:

http://insideclimatenews.org/news/05052015/flawed-methane-monitor-underestimates-leaks-oil-and-gas-sites


Extract: "A popular scientific instrument used to measure methane leaks from oil and gas operations severely underestimates emissions under certain conditions, a preliminary study found. The results could have major implications for federal policies as the Obama administration moves to regulate methane from the natural gas industry."
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Sleepy

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Guess this will fit in here. Aliso Canyon...
Now, on day 48 in a very uncertain timeline of the one of the largest U.S. natural gas leaks ever recorded, infrared cameras are giving us a true glimpse at the size of this man-made methane volcano.

http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2015/12/10/infrared-camera-reveals-huge-wafting-cloud-of-methane-over-californias-aliso-canyon/

JimD

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It is so much worse than you think.

..Methane is the primary component of natural gas, and it can leak almost anywhere in the natural gas supply chain. Studies show that it is leaking at almost every point in the supply chain — at drilling sites, along pipelines, at compression stations, at storage facilities like Aliso Canyon and along the networks of piping that deliver natural gas to homes. About the only thing unusual about the Aliso Canyon leak is its size.

Now if we could only figure out how much methane is leaking worldwide.

The gas leak problem is hard to quantify, because there’s no unified system to find and measure these leaks. A study published in the journal Science in 2014 found that official inventories routinely underestimate methane emissions from leakages. And recent studies that have taken measurements also suggest that the problem is widespread.

The city of Boston alone had at least 1,868 documented unrepaired leaks in its gas lines as of March 2015, and the oldest has been leaking since 1985.4 As large as that number may sound, it underrepresents the problem because it includes only known leaks that have been reported to gas companies


These are not blobs sloshing over the city; they’re very spatially resolved slots,” Phillips said, referring to the distinct columns of gas you can see on methane maps. Driving 785 miles in the city of Boston, Phillips and his team identified 3,356 leaks. In Washington, D.C., his group drove 1,500 miles of road and found 5,893 natural gas leaks. Another research group found “hundreds to thousands” of likely leaks in Manhattan in New York City using street measurements.


Extrapolate all this to a national scale and it is certain the US contribution to emissions is far higher than 'official' numbers.  And talk about hard to fix!  And expensive.

A global survey published in December identified 7,467 natural gas flare sites in 2012. Every flare pushes more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, as well as combustion byproducts such as black carbon that can also contribute to climate change.

Elvidge and his colleagues estimated that in 2012 these flares burned 143 billion cubic meters of gas. The volume of gas flared represents 3.5 percent of global natural gas consumption and 19.8 percent of U.S. natural gas consumption: enough gas to power 74 million automobiles driving 13,476 miles per year. And those are emissions that add to global warming without giving us any energy in return.


http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/methane-is-leaking-all-over-the-place/
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

salbers

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Unsure though about whether all this emission is presently increasing and whether it is responsible for the uptick in global methane over the past 5-7 years.

frankendoodle

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There are new regulations being put into place for new wells but not for existing wells as far as I know.  Ask him if he knows of contracts for checking on abandoned wells.  Recent analysis is that 35% of all abandoned wells are venting methane, some at a rate of 3,000 cubic feet per year, or the equivalent of a typical gas-heated homes annual consumption, but since it has a 75 times warming over a 20 year period this would be equal to the GHG footprint of 75 homes.  and there are literally millions of wells.

I believe it. Every well drilled has an automatic 5% fail rate with a cumulative 2-3% every year. So about a quarter of all wells leak after just 10 years.