Natural Gas Industry Has a Leaking Methane Issue

Credit: Flickr / Tim Evanson

Oil and gas operations reportedly leak more methane than was previously thought. However, it often gets lost in discussions about natural gas.

Over years, since advances in drilling and extraction technology, especially the hydraulic fracturing technique, much of the conversation regarding methane has been about how it is better than fossil fuel. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, natural gas can emit between 50%-60% less CO2 than coal does, when burned under optimal conditions. And, an automobile fuel burns between 15%-20% less of the greenhouse gases than gasoline. However, just the fact that natural gas burns cleaner than other combustible fuels doesn’t make it cleaner and this is attributed to methane. The pollutant is said to be responsible for global warming and climate change, which could be traced down to carbon dioxide. However, methane, which is the main ingredient in natural gas is said to be more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2.

In the context, methane leaks are natural with processes such as extracting, storing, and burning natural gas. And, methane reportedly accounts for around 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, a study published in the journal Science highlighted that U.S. oil and gas operations are leaking 60% more methane than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had previously calculated – about 13million tons more each year. It was also reported that Cheniere Energy’s 1,000-acre Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana has been riddled with dangerous leaks over the last decade.

Methane emissions are prone to harming the atmosphere. And, nearly everyone recognizes this including some of the biggest oil and gas companies in the country, which has led to tightening of federal rules designed to plug methane leaks connected to fossil fuel production.

In conclusion, natural gas isn’t entirely clean, and environmental laws are key to ensuring a good environmental legacy.

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