Natural Gas Production Not the Cause of Excess Methane Gas


Credit: Famartin / CC BY-SA 4.0

A summary of a scientific study which appeared in the journal Nature last week used vast ancient and new atmospheric samples and it gives a boost to the gas industry’s side of the argument about methane leak. The data shows that while gas production has soared like anything in the recent years, the industry’s rate of leakage appears to have declined. The study has a specific finding that methane emissions from natural gas as a fraction of production have declined from approximately 8% to approximately 2% over the past three decades. This is in spite of a multi-fold increase in natural gas production across the globe.

Due to these findings, the natural gas industry or economy related to this industry has received a major boost as some of the advocates had expressed fear and serious concern that methane emissions from increasing natural gas production and were negating the benefits of carbon dioxide reductions. As compared to coal, natural gas cuts in half the carbon dioxide emissions that are the main focus of global warming advocates (for the same amount of heat output). Global energy prospects are revolutionised due to the discoveries of huge natural gas resources trapped in shale rock formations. The advances in hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and directional drilling technologies have aided to cost-effective release this gas and to be used commercially.

Natural gas production in the U.S. alone has increased by more than 50% over the last decade. The Earth science experts claim there is enough natural gas in the ground to power our economy for many decades or even centuries to come. Another objection by the global warming advocates is that natural gas production and transportation results in methane emissions. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas and surely is a contributor to the global warming effect. Actually, the methane molecules get cycled out of the Earth’s atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide molecules, but a substantial increase in methane emission can negate reduction in carbon dioxide emission. And the rise in the percentage of methane emission was always attributed to the increase in the fossil fuel and natural gas production.

A team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado has proved methane leakage rates during natural gas production have declined substantially. More natural gas supplies have translated into lower gas prices and a significant factor in power companies switching from coal to natural gas generation. In the year 2016, by contrast, natural gas is America’s leading source of electricity production, and has much lower emissions as compared to fossil fuel and also proved now is not the one causing the rise in methane leak.

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