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Bob Wallace

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Methane leaks dropping?
« on: October 02, 2014, 05:41:13 PM »
This is from an industry sponsored article, but bears watching.

Quote
Technology advancements are driving more than just the huge production increases realized by the natural gas sector over the last several years. The industry is also innovating when it comes to making the production process more efficient and environmentally friendly.

New data from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems are down 12 percent since 2011. Methane released from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations has dropped an astonishing 73 percent since 2011.

Enter “green completions,” which virtually eliminate emissions that were once released during natural gas production. The technology creates a closed-loop system that separates usable gas from water during the “flowback” stage of the drilling process, and keeps that gas from entering the atmosphere. This has substantially curtailed older methods of emissions reduction, such as flaring.

Starting on Jan. 1, 2015, green completions will be the law of the land for the vast majority of natural gas producers. The industry-wide utilization of this technology will mean a reduction in methane emissions by 1.0 to 1.7 million tons a year.

Why does this matter? Because that’s the equivalent of removing up to 8 million cars from the road each year, according to the World Resources Institute.

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/anga-sponsored/natural-gas-tech-reduce-emissions-95-percent

I wasn't aware of legislation going into effect on Jan 1.  That's good news.

viddaloo

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Methane emissions from industrial systems in the USA are down 12%
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2014, 07:56:52 PM »
"Methane emissions from industrial petroleum and natural gas systems in the USA are down 12 percent" would be a less misleading heading. Other methane emissions are of course way up.
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2014, 09:42:35 PM »
Quote
"Methane emissions from industrial petroleum and natural gas systems in the USA are down 12 percent" would be a less misleading heading. Other methane emissions are of course way up.

That's some very interesting logic.

We have -

1) Methane emissions from industrial petroleum and natural gas systems in the USA are down 12 percent

but that's misleading because

2)  Other methane emissions are of course way up.

That's like saying that even though the price of a load of bread fell from $2 to $1 the price of bread isn't down because the price of milk is up....

AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2014, 10:18:46 PM »
Bob,

Your case would be stronger if you reported space based methane emission measurements rather than industry reported measurements.  If industry intentionally vents methane (the price of milk in you analogy) would they report this as a leak (the price of bread in your analogy)?  The following linked reference says that EPA estimates of total US methane emissions (largely based on industry reported data) significantly under estimates total industry methane emissions.

Eric A. Kort, Christian Frankenberg, Keeley R. Costigan, Rodica Lindenmaier, Manvendra K. Dubey and Debra Wunch, (2014), "Four Corners: the largest US methane anomaly viewed from space", Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2014GL061503

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL061503/abstract

Abstract: "Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas and ozone precursor. Quantifying methane emissions is critical for projecting and mitigating changes to climate and air quality. Here we present CH4 observations made from space combined with earth-based remote sensing column measurements. Results indicate the largest anomalous CH4 levels viewable from space over the conterminous US are located at the Four Corners region in the Southwest US. Emissions exceeding inventory estimates, totaling 0.59 Tg CH4/yr [0.50-0.67; 2σ], are necessary to bring high-resolution simulations and observations into agreement. This underestimated source approaches 10% of the EPA estimate of total US CH4 emissions from natural gas. The persistence of this CH4 signal from 2003 onwards indicates the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coal-bed methane mining and processing. This work demonstrates that space-based observations can identify anomalous CH4 emission source regions and quantify their emissions with the use of a transport model."

Best,
ASLR
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2014, 11:24:48 PM »
First, I clearly stated that this was an industry article.

Second, I pointed out their statement that new legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2015 which requires drillers to minimize any leaks related to drilling and extracting.

I made no claim that stopping well leaks would stop the problem of leaky natural gas distribution systems in our cities or feedlot/dairy methane emissions.  Those, and other methane emission sources are an entirely different problems. 

You're engaging in minimizing good news by painting it over with non-connected information.

"Hey!  I got an A in math!"

"Yes, but your sister got a C in English."


viddaloo

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I found your headline misleading, not your overall story. Everyone knows methane leaks are up all over the cryosphere.
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AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2014, 12:08:49 AM »
First, I clearly stated that this was an industry article.

Second, I pointed out their statement that new legislation goes into effect on January 1, 2015 which requires drillers to minimize any leaks related to drilling and extracting.

I made no claim that stopping well leaks would stop the problem of leaky natural gas distribution systems in our cities or feedlot/dairy methane emissions.  Those, and other methane emission sources are an entirely different problems. 

You're engaging in minimizing good news by painting it over with non-connected information.

"Hey!  I got an A in math!"

"Yes, but your sister got a C in English."

Bob,
Certainly, I do not mean to imply that if one must frack that it is not a good idea to try to limit methane leaks.  My point is that it would be better not to frack at all.  In the linked article, Howarth (April 2014) shows that even with the best methane leak controls, leaks can only be limited to something less than 2.5 to 3%, which makes it at best slightly better than coal-fired power plants; but he also points out that the new Federal leak regulations will need to be enforced by under-funded state official who may not enforce the best case scenario.  Furthermore, the article indicates that fracking is likely to: (a) decrease the growth of renewables (say PV and wind); (b) encourage the use of natural gas for LNG export, and/or vehicular uses, where the carbon footprint is much higher than for power plants, and (c) encourages the use of fracking in other countries, which will further increase GHG emissions.

http://grist.org/climate-energy/bad-news-for-obama-fracking-may-be-worse-than-burning-coal/

Best,
ASLR
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viddaloo

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Why Lie To Ourselves About Methane?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2014, 12:52:47 AM »
Why Lie To Ourselves About Methane? (ecoshock mp3 podcast Oct 1)
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2014, 03:01:52 AM »
" it would be better not to frack at all"

I agree. 

" fracking is likely to: (a) decrease the growth of renewables (say PV and wind)"

I suspect this very wrong.  Wind is now cheaper than NG generation.  Solar is roughly the same cost and dropping.  Utilities are not going to burn NG if they have cheaper wind and solar.

Natural gas is a wind and solar enabler.  And a coal killer.

Utility managers are charged with keeping the lights on 99.9+% of the time.  The wind does not blow all the time, the Sun does not shine all the time, and we don't have cheap storage (yet).

We are faced with a choice:

1)  Run a coal plant ~85% of the time (hypothetical CF) and fill in with NG, or

2) Use wind and solar when they are available and fill in with NG.  That might be about 30% of the time.

If we choose #1 we are pumping out CO2 24/365.

If we choose #2 we are pumping out CO2 about 30% of the time.

As we go along we will most likely be presented with choice #3 - renewables with storage for a ~100% clean grid.  But we haven't developed that far at this time.  So what to do in the meantime - pick #1 or #2? 


AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2014, 04:51:23 AM »
Bob,

Why don't you propose to use your cheap solar, and wind, power to generate hydrogen gas to fill those natural gas pipelines that you are promoting?

I should note that the Oak Ridge National Lab. is developing technology for a relatively inexpensive high pressure vessel design for storing surplus hydrogen.

Or better yet, inject whatever hydrogen that you can produce into our existing conventional natural gas supplies in order to extend this variable supply.

Best,
ASLR
« Last Edit: October 03, 2014, 05:15:31 AM by AbruptSLR »
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2014, 05:31:17 AM »
Because I've seen nothing to suggest we can make H2 from electricity at a competitive price.

By the time we pull the H2 from water and compress it for storage we've used up about half the energy we started with.  If we're using 4c/kWh wind energy we now have "8c/kWh" H2 and we'll experience another significant energy loss turning it back into electricity, perhaps giving up another 50%.  Now we're at 12c/kWh and haven't paid for the infrastructure.

H2 (or one more step into methane) might make sense for very deep backup.  But in the real world the grid won't pay that sort of money for daily fill-in.

AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #11 on: October 09, 2014, 04:27:50 PM »
While the fracking industry says they can/will reduce methane leakage, the following linked reference (open access) reported historical fugitive leakages of 10.1% ± 7.3% and 9.1% ± 6.2% in terms of energy content, during production (without considering transportation, and distribution, leaks).  These historical leak rates are relatively high.

Schneising, O., Burrows, J. P., Dickerson, R. R., Buchwitz, M., Reuter, M. and Bovensmann, H. (2014), Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production in North American tight geologic formations. Earth's Future. doi: 10.1002/2014EF000265

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

Abstract: "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."
« Last Edit: October 09, 2014, 07:42:32 PM by AbruptSLR »
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #12 on: October 09, 2014, 06:15:04 PM »
Here's we stand now -

Quote
July 1, 2014

EPA has issued cost effective regulations to reduce harmful air pollution from the oil and natural gas industry, while allowing continued, responsible growth in U.S. oil and natural gas production. The final rules rely on proven technologies and best practices that are in use today to reduce emissions of smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

The final rules are expected to yield a nearly 95 percent reduction in VOC emissions from more than 11,000 new hydraulically fractured gas wells each year. This significant reduction would be accomplished primarily through capturing natural gas that currently escapes into the air, and making that gas available for sale. The rules also will reduce air toxics, which are known or suspected of causing cancer and other serious health effects, and emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

The final action includes the review of four rules for the oil and natural gas industry: a new source performance standard for VOCs; a new source performance standard for sulfur dioxide; an air toxics standard for oil and natural gas production; and an air toxics standard for natural gas transmission and storage.

We're in the comment and writing the final version at the moment.  I suspect we'll see the final version after the November election has passed.

AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #13 on: October 09, 2014, 07:46:38 PM »
Bob,

You should be aware that approximately 1% of the historical fugitive leaks in fracking operations do not come up through the well, but rather the methane leaks through the ground formations and thus will not be controlled by the new regulations that you are citing.  Thus even after the regulations the fracking operation my produce 2% leaks plus what occurs during transport, distribution and use.

Best,
ASLR
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2014, 09:07:56 PM »
No, I don't know what you mean by "methane leaks through the ground formations".

Leaks during transmission and distribution also need to be contained.

Those leaks are mostly happening aside from electricity production.  Some of our urban gas distribution systems resemble sieves.  Take a look at this section of Boston...


AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #15 on: October 09, 2014, 11:31:03 PM »
Bob,

As the attached picture shows, fracking introduces fissures in the rock through which methane can leak into the soil and then to the atmosphere as discussed in the reference, and extract, below:

The following extract is from: Michael Slezak (November 2012), "Methane leaks suggest fracking benefits exaggerated", New Scientist, Magazine issue 2892.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn22521-methane-leaks-suggest-fracking-benefits-exaggerated.html#.VDb7caPn_IU

Extract: "Most research on these leaks has focused on well heads, but Damien Maher at Southern Cross University in Queensland and colleagues looked at gas seeping through the ground. They found higher levels of methane in the air above the Tara gas field, suggesting widespread ground leaks. In some places, it hit 6.89 parts per million, over three times the background level. The team suspect fracking changes the soil structure, letting more methane escape. The work is undergoing peer review.

"If it's leaking from the infrastructure that's an easy fix," says co-author Isaac Santos. "If it's seeping from the soil that's much harder to fix.""

Best,
ASLR

edit: I should note that I believe that Michael Slezak's measurement were made in an arid area where there would be little groundwater to absorb the methane that leaked from the fractured rock into the soil; however, there are large areas of the world where fracking is, or will be, performed in arid areas (the US West and China).
« Last Edit: October 09, 2014, 11:54:59 PM by AbruptSLR »
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #16 on: October 09, 2014, 11:55:18 PM »
If fracking is cracking the rock layers above the shale and causing leaks then that's an additional problem.  I've not seen any data about that happening in US gas fields. 

I'd want to know the characteristics of the Tara compared to US fields.

AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2014, 12:54:18 AM »
According to the first linked reference (open access pdf) Tara was using fracking to get gas from coal seams, so this is different than shale gas.

http://www.health.qld.gov.au/publications/csg/documents/report.pdf

However, the following linked article shows that coal seam methane emissions from the USA Four Corners area have also been large.

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/huge-methane-emissions-hot-spot-in-u.s.-18156

When I have more time I will hunt down my old reference about ground leaks from shale gas operations.
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AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2014, 01:57:25 AM »
For those who what a clearer understanding of the various sources of methane emissions (venting, flaring fugitive etc), you might want to look at the linked free access IPCC report on this topic:

http://www.ipcc-nggip.iges.or.jp/tsu/intern_report/TSU_InternshipReportRyan.pdf
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2014, 03:37:47 AM »
Looking at your Climate Central article I see that increased methane readings have been found over gas and oil fields in one part of the country.

I don't see anything that tells me whether that methane is coming up from leaky wells or from fractures out in the field away from the well heads.  Fractures that weren't there before drilling/fracking.

I can imagine a couple of ways leaks could be opened up by the drilling/fracking.  But first we'd need data that shows drilling/fracking has resulted in leaks some distance from the bore.

If it's drilling/fracking/extracting/transporting leaks then we simply have to insist that they be stopped (or minimized).

Laurent

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2014, 12:54:46 PM »

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #21 on: October 10, 2014, 03:30:52 PM »
No, I don't know what you mean by "methane leaks through the ground formations".

Leaks during transmission and distribution also need to be contained.

Those leaks are mostly happening aside from electricity production.  Some of our urban gas distribution systems resemble sieves.  Take a look at this section of Boston...




WOW!!!!!

AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #22 on: October 10, 2014, 04:57:56 PM »
Looking at your Climate Central article I see that increased methane readings have been found over gas and oil fields in one part of the country.

I don't see anything that tells me whether that methane is coming up from leaky wells or from fractures out in the field away from the well heads.  Fractures that weren't there before drilling/fracking.

I can imagine a couple of ways leaks could be opened up by the drilling/fracking.  But first we'd need data that shows drilling/fracking has resulted in leaks some distance from the bore.

If it's drilling/fracking/extracting/transporting leaks then we simply have to insist that they be stopped (or minimized).

Bob,

As I mentioned previously, where there is a high groundwater table the methane leaks away from the well go into the groundwater as indicated by the following articles (you can find many more by googling this topic):

The following link leads to an open access pdf of a PNAS article on methane contamination of drinking water in New York:

https://nicholas.duke.edu/cgc/pnas2011.pdf

The following link leads to a Los Angeles Times article on methane contamination of drinking water in Pennsylvania and Texas:

http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-gas-wells-drinking-water-contamination-20140915-story.html

The following link leads to a Bloomberg article on methane contamination of drinking water in Pennsylvania:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-06-24/methane-in-water-seen-sixfold-higher-near-fracking-sites.html

Also, if you search You-tube for videos on shale gas and methane in drinking water, you can watch many videos of methane (lit on fire) coming out of drinking water taps. Such as:


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Sigmetnow

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #23 on: October 10, 2014, 07:47:29 PM »
This Slate article says the southwest methane is coming from coalbed methane extraction in New Mexico.

Quote
In 2012, using ground-based measurements, they were able to track the anomaly back to an unconventional technique called coalbed methane extraction that’s been practiced for decades in the region.

However, in order to justify the anomalous atmospheric concentrations they were detecting, Kort’s team calculated the amount of methane emanating from these sites must be enormous: 590,000 tons per year, or about 10 percent of the EPA’s estimate of total U.S. emissions from natural gas production, and about three-and-a-half times higher than previous estimates in this region.
http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/10/09/new_mexico_s_san_juan_basin_is_burping_methane_says_new_study.html
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AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #24 on: October 10, 2014, 07:58:28 PM »
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #25 on: October 10, 2014, 09:19:04 PM »
Quote
Bob,

As I mentioned previously, where there is a high groundwater table the methane leaks away from the well go into the groundwater as indicated by the following articles (you can find many more by googling this topic):

First paper - most leaks detected very close to well.  We know there is a problem in some wells with casement leaking.  I'm looking for something that finds that drilling fracking opens vents away from the bore. 

I don't feel like opening and reading a bunch of links to see if there's anything in them.  Do you have anything on that?  Please, no fishing expeditions.  I'm on overload with other things.

AbruptSLR

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #26 on: October 10, 2014, 11:23:07 PM »
Bob,

The problem with fugitive methane emissions away from the well casing, is that each case is different depending on the soil types, groundwater levels, and the degree of pre-existing faults in the rock above the shale layer.  Therefore, I cannot provide one definitive reference on this matter; however, I will say that the Union of Concerned Scientists paper that I linked to above, does not cite any fugitive methane emission percentages below 1%; so I take this to be a reasonable number even if everything is percent on the well and associated processes.

However, I would like to say that your comments seem insensitive to real world risks, and that if climate change reaches a tipping point by remaining too dependent on fossil fuels for too long; it will most certainly be because society was engaged in too much wishful thinking.

Best,
ASLR
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #27 on: October 10, 2014, 11:35:13 PM »
Look, natural gas is not a panacea.  There will be leaks.  There will be some people doing stuff the wrong way.  But would you prefer the other solution - a grid heavily dependent on coal?



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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #28 on: October 11, 2014, 12:23:54 AM »
I would prefer a carbon fee on fossil fuels (with an associate dividend to tax payers) that will use the invisible hand of the market place to encourage energy savings, renewables and would penalize those focusing on fossil fuels.

I am not against regulations to control methane leaks; I just do not think that relying only on regulations will get the job done.
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #29 on: October 11, 2014, 12:39:55 AM »
That's fine.

Lay out a pathway that gets us there.  One that keeps the lights lit and one that would be acceptable (and affordable) to the people whose job it is to keep the lights on.

Do a good enough job and I'll jump on board.

Let's see your plan.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #30 on: October 11, 2014, 01:48:41 AM »
Bob,

I am not claiming any authorship, but the free pdf found at the following link describes in detail what I mean by a carbon fee – dividend plan applied to the USA, showing that the lights will stay on.

http://citizensclimatelobby.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/REMI-carbon-tax-report-62141.pdf

Any country adopting such a plan could impose tariffs on countries who do not impose a comparable plan; which, should stop other countries from cheating.

Best,
ASLR
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #31 on: October 11, 2014, 02:09:33 AM »
I find it annoying when people put up a link and send me on a fishing expedition.

How about stating, in your own words, a plan that gets the US from 60% fossil fuel close to 0% fossil fuels over some time range.  If you've found a plan inside the paper you linked (one didn't jump out at me when I opened the link) then use it.  We all borrow the best ideas we can find all the time.

Remember, lights have to stay on.  It has to use technology in hand.  It has to be affordable.  And it has to be an approach that is likely to sit well with those who are responsible for keeping the lights lit.

I've got my own idea of  how we do it.  Show me something that might be better.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #32 on: October 11, 2014, 02:37:00 AM »
The following is my paraphrases summary of the proposal, and the attached figure shows that this proposal would result in job creation in the country:

The proposal is to implement a national system for a “fee-and-dividend” (F&D) carbon tax starting in 2016. This system would apply a fee to the extraction or removal of any carbon dioxide-emitting fuels—such as petroleum, natural gas, or coal—from the Earth. Objectives include the discouragement of their usage in order to preserve future resource endowments, reduce emissions, and provide an income base for a monthly rebate check of any proceeds from the carbon tax to all American households.  Such a carbon fee would begin at $10 per metric ton in 2016 and escalate in a linear fashion at $10 per year upward, although this study’s timeline ends with the models’ horizon in 2035. Carbon fees are a form of a sales tax—they introduce an extra charge paid to the government during a regular market transaction that raises the price of the good or service and renders the buyer less likely to consume it.  Carbon fees are intended to help markets internalize the negative externalities unrealized by the parties directly involved in the transaction, such as the potential harm done to the atmosphere when combusting fossil fuels.  The fundamental objective of a price on carbon dioxide is to incentivize households and businesses to consider the total cost of carbon dioxide emission during purchasing decisions.
By providing the monthly dividend to all tax payers the F&D system would have a neutral impact on the economy (but would redistribute some wealth from the fossil fuel industry to the general population), and would provide the political willpower to implement such a system.
Another feature of this design is its inclusion of a “border adjustment” on the potential carbon dioxide of any fuels or the emissions behind the production of goods brought into the United States for sale. It charges the same rate on manufactured goods, agricultural products, and fossil fuel imports as that charged domestic producers. The tariff would also apply to American exports of fossil fuels. The goal of the adjustment is to prevent the “leakage” of emissions for American consumption to foreign production, maintain competitiveness, and place upward pressure on the world price of coal, natural gas, and petroleum and incentivize other nations to design their own carbon pricing.
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #33 on: October 11, 2014, 04:05:55 AM »
That's not a plan.  That a carbon pricing scheme which could be used to drive a plan faster.

Tell me how you shut down the coal plants and replace them rapidly.  What you use to keep the system up and running reliably.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #34 on: October 11, 2014, 04:11:57 PM »
Bob,

You seem rather disingenuous.  Is it difficult for you to imagine that if using coal costs too much that the public will switch automatically to either energy savings, or clearer fuels, without excessive regulations?

Best,
ASLR
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #35 on: October 11, 2014, 05:01:17 PM »
Raising the price of fuel a few percent is not going to have much of an effect on closing billion dollar coal plants. Especially since most utilities operate as a regulated industry with guaranteed profit margins.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #36 on: October 11, 2014, 05:16:14 PM »
Raising the price of fuel a few percent is not going to have much of an effect on closing billion dollar coal plants. Especially since most utilities operate as a regulated industry with guaranteed profit margins.

I cannot remember how many articles that I have read recently that indicate that because the recent surplus of natural gas has driven down to cost methane a few percent that many coal-fired power plants are in financial trouble.  This evidence indicates that in a market economy using price signals (using a Carbon Fee & Dividend plan) is an effective means of reducing fossil fuel use.

However, the same cannot be said for promoting the use of non-conventional natural gas (a fossil fuel), as the linked reference, with an open access pdf, uses model results to show that increased use of natural gas (due to shale gas, coal bed gas, & other unconventional natural gas sources) do not result in meaningful decarbonization of the US power sector:

Christine Shearer, John Bistline, Mason Inman and Steven J Davis, (2014), "The effect of natural gas supply on US renewable energy and CO2 emissions", Environ. Res. Lett. 9 094008, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/9/094008

http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/9/094008/article;jsessionid=A613BF0AA501553A04B8D2B75F7A34E5.c2

Abstract: "Increased use of natural gas has been promoted as a means of decarbonizing the US power sector, because of superior generator efficiency and lower CO2 emissions per unit of electricity than coal. We model the effect of different gas supplies on the US power sector and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across a range of climate policies, we find that abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future. Without a climate policy, overall electricity use also increases as the gas supply increases. With reduced deployment of lower-carbon renewable energies and increased electricity consumption, the effect of higher gas supplies on GHG emissions is small: cumulative emissions 2013–55 in our high gas supply scenario are 2% less than in our low gas supply scenario, when there are no new climate policies and a methane leakage rate of 1.5% is assumed. Assuming leakage rates of 0 or 3% does not substantially alter this finding. In our results, only climate policies bring about a significant reduction in future CO2 emissions within the US electricity sector. Our results suggest that without strong limits on GHG emissions or policies that explicitly encourage renewable electricity, abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization, primarily by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies."
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #37 on: October 11, 2014, 05:39:00 PM »
Per the following Wikipedia link, the Fee & Dividend plan was enacted in British Columbia in 2008 and has not disrupted their economy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fee_and_dividend
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #38 on: October 11, 2014, 05:45:47 PM »
I tend to concur with James Hansen's positions, more often than not, and in the linked position piece he promotes the concept of a Fee & Dividend plan (together with other actions, including legal action):

http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2014/20140702_WheelsOfJustice.pdf
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #39 on: October 11, 2014, 06:14:45 PM »
Amusing to me that the BC carbon tax is being called a fee and dividend system. People are so afraid of that "tax" word! In BC they call it a revenue neutral carbon tax because income taxes were reduced to balance it.

I didn't mean to suggest I'm opposed to a price on carbon. It is very clear it won't kill the economy and can't hurt to push things in the right direction. My feeling is that without regulation such as a cap on carbon or mandatory closure of things like coal plants (as was done in Ontario) or regulation of fuel economy the movement away from carbon is very slow.

Even a huge tax on carbon alone (as we've seen in Europe with petrol taxes) has a rather small relative impact on carbon usage. It pushes things in the right direction but the moves are small.

The vast majority of the Canadian population (BC, Ontario, Quebec) are served by almost carbon free electricity. The problem of carbon emissions here relates to extraction and export of carbon and to cars/trucks. Perhaps instead (in addition to?) a carbon tax on carbon extracted we just need much higher royalties on the carbon. Unfortunately that won't happen because as we've already seen the multinationals threaten to cut back on extraction when the royalties go up. That would work, is so much simpler and isn't a direct tax on individuals - won't happen though.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #40 on: October 12, 2014, 04:42:48 AM »
According to the first linked reference (open access pdf) Tara was using fracking to get gas from coal seams, so this is different than shale gas.

http://www.health.qld.gov.au/publications/csg/documents/report.pdf

However, the following linked article shows that coal seam methane emissions from the USA Four Corners area have also been large.

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/huge-methane-emissions-hot-spot-in-u.s.-18156

When I have more time I will hunt down my old reference about ground leaks from shale gas operations.

JimD posted an interesting bit on a different thread -

Quote
There's a Methane 'Hot Spot' the Size of Delaware in the American Southwest


Quote
So why is Four Corners spewing out an apocalyptic amount of methane? Because of old, leaky-ass fossil fuel infrastructure, that's why. The hot spot predates fracking, the researchers say, so they've flagged "leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico's San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country" as the culprit.

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/there-is-a-methane-hot-spot-the-size-of-delaware-in-the-american-southwest

Looks like those leaks may be from sloppy drilling/rig maintenance. 

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #41 on: October 12, 2014, 04:52:56 AM »
Bob,

You seem rather disingenuous.  Is it difficult for you to imagine that if using coal costs too much that the public will switch automatically to either energy savings, or clearer fuels, without excessive regulations?

Best,
ASLR

No, I have no doubt that driving the price of coal high enough would force the public to switch.  But you can't do that.  The public will not permit it.

How do we get from where we are to a clean grid in an acceptable fashion? That's the plan I'm asking for. 

1. Grid with 40% coal generation.
2.
3.
4.
5. Clean grid.

Fill in the missing steps.  Tell how we get from 1. to 5. without resorting to magic, destabilizing the grid, or making the cost of electricity too expensive to be acceptable.

Here's something you can't do as part of your plan - drive up the price of coal first or do anything else that significantly increases the cost of electricity.  Do that and your plan will fail.  The general public will not accept significantly higher electricity prices.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #42 on: October 12, 2014, 05:34:03 AM »
Bob,

I will let you provide your own technology driven road map to the promised land; however, I believe that the general public would accept a Fee & Dividend plan because they would get a significant dividend check every month to use as they like, and I believe that the carbon fee would be effective because it would be progressively increased every year until it got results.

The simple truth about controlling GHG is: "no pain, no gain"

Best,
ASLR
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #43 on: October 12, 2014, 07:39:47 AM »
ASLA, may I call you "A"?

I just made three large comments on the "But, but, but, China..." thread.

I'll fill in a little more for you here.

I think we get from where we are on the grid, ~60% fossil fuel generation, by using a combination of wind, solar and natural gas as a 100% reliable and affordable replacement for coal.

Got to make sure we keep the grid up and running.  Otherwise the peasants will rush the castle with pitchforks and burning brands.

Got to keep the price right.  Otherwise the peasants will install a coal-friendly government and we'll go the way of Australia.

Natural gas lets us shut coal plants, keep the grid up, and prices down.

Again, NG is a very nasty thing.  I feel I should emphasize that.  Some people find it hard to recognize when I write it.

But if we keep the leaks under control then NG emits 50% as much CO2 as coal.  And a mix of 40% wind, 30% solar and 30% NG emits 15% as much CO2 as coal.

As time goes on (and the time line may, in fact, be short) we will replace NG with stored wind and solar.

After some years of work (15, 20, 30?) we should have a grid that is over 95% renewable and less than 5% fossil fuel generated.  Or maybe in those intervening 15-30 years someone will figure out a low cost long term storage technique or a CO2-free dispatchable generation technology that let's us go 100% CO2 free.

That's my plan.  Build the hell out of wind and solar.  Use NG as long as we have to for fill-in.  Let NG be the bridge to a clean grid.  Replace NG with storage as it become financially feasible.


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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #44 on: October 12, 2014, 05:30:52 PM »
Bob,

My handle is AbruptSLR (short for Abrupt Sea Level Rise), and while I normally go by ASLR, you can nickname me anything that you like (just like George W. Bush liked to do).

As you apparently prefer to focus on technological fixes to global warming (as opposed to plans such as the Fee and Dividend), I provided the following links to the IEA's roadmap to a solar future, that achieves a clean grid without supporting the drill-baby-drill mind-set of developing unconventional natural gas sources (shale-gas, coal-gas, tight-gas, etc):

http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/speeches/140929_Solar_Roadmaps_Speech.pdf

http://www.iea.org/newsroomandevents/pressreleases/2014/september/how-solar-energy-could-be-the-largest-source-of-electricity-by-mid-century.html

As you stated that you do not like to click on links, I provide the attached summary images: 1. the first image shows a comparison of where we are in 2011 by where we could possibly be in 2050; 2. the second image shows the assumed mix between PV and Solar Thermal Energy; 3. the third image shows which countries (or regions) need to achieve what PV and STE targets by 2050 to achieve this technological focused plan; and 4. the fourth image shows that to achieve this goal a lot of other renewables (hydropower, biofuels, etc.) would need to be developed worldwide by 2050.

That said, I do not like to assume that governments can pick winning technological plans; but rather I believe that such a clean energy future is possible under a Fee & Dividend plan if all key governments worldwide were to adopt a F&D plan by 2016.  If global society does not wish to implement such a F&D plan due to the hard work that it requires, then society will experience the pain and loss associated with global warming, until either society decides to take responsibility, or until the global economy is crippled by global warming sufficiently to result in a sustainable situation (however, many centuries/millennia that takes):

Best, ASLR
« Last Edit: October 12, 2014, 05:36:25 PM by AbruptSLR »
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #45 on: October 12, 2014, 06:09:39 PM »
Amusing to me that the BC carbon tax is being called a fee and dividend system. People are so afraid of that "tax" word! In BC they call it a revenue neutral carbon tax because income taxes were reduced to balance it.

I didn't mean to suggest I'm opposed to a price on carbon. It is very clear it won't kill the economy and can't hurt to push things in the right direction. My feeling is that without regulation such as a cap on carbon or mandatory closure of things like coal plants (as was done in Ontario) or regulation of fuel economy the movement away from carbon is very slow.

Even a huge tax on carbon alone (as we've seen in Europe with petrol taxes) has a rather small relative impact on carbon usage. It pushes things in the right direction but the moves are small.

The vast majority of the Canadian population (BC, Ontario, Quebec) are served by almost carbon free electricity. The problem of carbon emissions here relates to extraction and export of carbon and to cars/trucks. Perhaps instead (in addition to?) a carbon tax on carbon extracted we just need much higher royalties on the carbon. Unfortunately that won't happen because as we've already seen the multinationals threaten to cut back on extraction when the royalties go up. That would work, is so much simpler and isn't a direct tax on individuals - won't happen though.

ghoti,

First, it is nice that you are amused by the use of the term "Fee", when the F&D plan that I cited does call for a carbon sales tax and a carbon tariff; however, taxes do not result in dividend payments back to the general public, while in the F&D plan that is exactly what happens.

Second, if the F&D plan implemented in BC has not made a significant impact on GHG emissions yet, it is probably because of a combination of local factors including: (a) the hydropower available in BC is already clean; (b) the general public in BC is wealthy enough to continuing paying high fuel prices to drive; and (c) the plan started with a $10 per ton price on carbon while the following Forbes article quotes (see extract) Milton Friedman school economists citing that the carbon fee should be at least $40 per ton, and should be implemented worldwide, rather than just in BC.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2014/10/12/what-would-milton-friedman-do-about-climate-change-tax-carbon/

Extract: "Estimating the cost is tricky, Greenstone said, but scientists and economists have models for projecting the cost of each added ton of carbon on agricultural losses, mortality, sea-level rise, storm surge, and other climate effects.

“It’s a complicated task but I think the best evidence suggests that it’s probably around $40 a ton,” he said. The U.S. government has projected the cost of carbon emissions at $37 per ton.

One audience member challenged the economists at this point, saying Friedman would not be so cavalier about a tax when there is uncertainty about its optimum level and likely effects.

“There is uncertainty,” Cicala replied. “There is no question. Name me another policy where there was no uncertainty.”

The uncertainty, Cicala said, “should have us terrified”—not terrified of the effects of a price on carbon, but terrified of the effects of increased carbon concentrations in the atmosphere and ocean."

The fact that Milton Friedman school economists are honest enough to discuss the reality of climate change, clearly indicates that climate change is not conservative vs liberal partisan issue which has grid-locked Washington DC.  Implementation of an F&D plan would satisfy Milton Friedman's goal of allowing the "invisible hand" of the market place to pick the winning combination of technology; and would satisfy the climate hawks such as James Hansen who explicitly is supporting the F&D plan because the dividend makes the plan work without destroying the economy (because the plan is monetarily neutral).

edit: I add that as there is uncertainty in how to price carbon, and as this price will certainly change in the future, the F&D plan calls for the carbon fee to be raised incrementally in the future until carbon emissions are controlled (and again even high carbon fees would not destroy the economy as the dividend would allow the general public to hire workers to do things such as: install insulation & PV panels, buy EVs, and invest in wind-power developments; and the higher the carbon fee the more effective the dividend would be in promoting sustainable activities).  Also, I note that the Freidman economists correctly point-out that as carbon emissions negatively impact third parties, that having no carbon fee is equivalent to supporting theft.

Best,
ASLR
« Last Edit: October 12, 2014, 06:26:46 PM by AbruptSLR »
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #46 on: October 12, 2014, 07:17:49 PM »
"As you apparently prefer to focus on technological fixes to global warming (as opposed to plans such as the Fee and Dividend),"

Of course.  Your solution is to make electricity and transportation so expensive that use of each will drop so much that we'll meet our emission goals?  You're recommending destroying economies as a fix?

Come on.  A price on carbon is simply a catalyst.  A price on carbon would be rejected by the greater population if they are not offered a reasonable alternative.

This problem will not be fixed by economic theory but by technological substitutes.  Trading a clean technology for a dirty technology.  We would probably be smart to add a carbon price on top of technology development, but we must have the technology to make it work.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #47 on: October 12, 2014, 10:10:21 PM »
First, in Reply #32 I presented evidence that a well run F&D plan will result in job growth, not a ruined economy.
Second, I agree that technology will need to be part of the solution, but economic changes also need to be part of the solution.
Third, people in British Columbia have not rejected their F&D plan that has worked since 2008, so it appears that you are expressing your own bias rather than any kind of fact.
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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #48 on: October 12, 2014, 10:28:13 PM »
First, in Reply #32 I presented evidence that a well run F&D plan will result in job growth, not a ruined economy.

It's probably the only option that might theoretically work (or have worked, little late now). Anything that simply increases the price of fossil fuels will disproportionately impact the poorer section of populations while scarcely touching more affluent sections.

Superficially, giving people the money raised from such a tax to pay for their fossil fuels is counter intuitive, but in practice if they can save money by alternate options, they will. It both creates the incentives to save the money and the market for products at the same time.

On the other hand, if you just make the energy more expensive - what's a poorer person meant to do? Buy a nice new electric car with the money they don't have? Buy solar panels they can't afford for the roof they don't own? (these are ridiculous suggestions for a "fix"without empowering people to adopt them)

That's the ridiculous thing and the nonsense about a lot of what the UK has done along these lines. They subsidised new electric cars - wonderful - unless you're most people and can't afford one regardless (also you likely can't afford a newer more fuel efficient car). They had a scheme to encourage people to get insulation and solar power - wonderful - but worthless if you don't own your own home (which many people do not and cannot). In this way only quite affluent people benefited from those schemes, while (almost) everyone paid for them as taxpayers.

In order for anything to work, it really has to simultaneously address the problems being introduced to the system by inequality. Widening the gap between the poor and rich while increasing the stress factors leads to only one thing - failure. An increasingly unequal society is an increasing dysfunctional one, and increasingly prone to sudden dramatic failure.

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Re: Methane leaks dropping?
« Reply #49 on: October 13, 2014, 12:07:36 AM »
First, in Reply #32 I presented evidence that a well run F&D plan will result in job growth, not a ruined economy.
Second, I agree that technology will need to be part of the solution, but economic changes also need to be part of the solution.
Third, people in British Columbia have not rejected their F&D plan that has worked since 2008, so it appears that you are expressing your own bias rather than any kind of fact.

Yes, a well designed carbon price policy would not ruin the economy.  I have not argued it will.

Were we to implement a well-designed carbon price policy that would likely drive utilities to work out a plan to get off fossil fuels.  A well-designed  carbon price policy could be an helpful catalysis, useful for speeding things up. 

Now, let's be honest.  There is approximately a zero chance of getting a carbon price of any sort through the US Congress.  Introduce one and immediately the Murdoch/right-wing press will start screaming "TAX INCREASE!!!"  and none but the congress members from the most liberal states would be willing to vote for it.

What we need is a plan with a reasonable chance of being implemented.