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Survey finds methane emissions from fracing half of EPA estimates

A new survey of methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing in the US found that they are 50% lower than the US Environmental Protection Agency’s estimates, the American Petroleum Institute and America’s Natural Gas Alliance jointly announced. They said the survey of 91,000 wells operated by more than 20 companies over a broad geographic area examined 10 times as many data sources as one of the key sources for EPA’s most recent emissions estimate.

The survey by URS Corp. and the LEVON Group found that emissions from two significant areas were even lower than EPA’s estimates, API and ANGA said. Venting of methane into the atmosphere during liquids unloading was 86% less and emissions from well workovers were 72% less, they indicated.

“The fact that these emissions are much less than earlier, more limited estimates and the fact that operators are already working to reduce emissions from natural gas production is good news for the future of US natural gas development and the game-changing benefits of job creation and economic growth that will come with it,” Howard Feldman, API’s regulatory and scientific affairs director, told reporters during a June 4 teleconference.

“The industry is voluntarily reducing its environmental footprint and not waiting for regulatory mandates or incentives to continue to make progress,” Feldman said, adding, “The technology and equipment used to reduce emissions were created by the industry, and companies are already implementing those technologies in locations where it is most effective. By January of 2015, all wells are required to include reduced emissions completions, which will further ensure emission reductions.”

Sara Banaszak, an ANGA vice-president and its chief economist who also participated in the teleconference, stated, “With better data from a wider sampling of more wells, we have set a baseline for better operations. We’ve been working all-out to prepare this data for public release as soon as possible.”

The study said as the oil and gas industry and the federal government move forward in addressing emissions from unconventional production operations, three key points are worth noting:

• In addition to voluntary measures by producers, more data will become available in the future.

• Industry has a continuous commitment to improve.

• Producers who participated in the survey are committed to providing information about the new and quickly changing area of unconventional oil and gas operations.

“We think that where we are right now, natural gas is available domestically, its production is generating jobs, and its price is encouraging companies to build new manufacturing plants in this country,” Feldman said. “We think the emphasis on gas is good for the country, and we believe anyone who feels otherwise is out of touch with what’s going on.”

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