Methane emissions from gas production lower than EPA estimates, study says

Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin said their direct measurements at 190 natural gas drilling sites found lower methane emissions than the US Environment Protection Agency has suggested in earlier estimates.

The UT measurements summary found wells generally emitted about 20% less greenhouse gases than EPA had estimated. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published the study, “Measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the United States” on Sept. 16.

UT chemical engineering professor David Allen and other researchers measured methane emissions from shale gas wells completed with hydraulic fracturing. The study results released so far involved only the gas extraction phase.

Allen said the information will help policymakers make informed decisions. Meanwhile, more work is pending on other possible industry sources of methane emissions, such as pipelines.

Sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and natural gas producers, the study concluded that methane emissions from the development of gas and associated liquids represent 0.42% of total production.

Large oil companies contributed financing to the study. They include Anadarko Petroleum Corp., ExxonMobil Corp., Pioneer Natural Resources Co., and Royal Dutch Shell PLC.

Meanwhile, Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy called the study “fatally flawed” because of the sample size and industry influence. But UT researchers said their methodology was sound and the research was done independently.

Trade associations last year reported in a joint study of their own that EPA estimates on methane emissions from unconventional gas production were too high (OGJ, July 2, 2012).

Industry reacts

The American Petroleum Institute said the UT study’s findings demonstrate industry’s successful efforts to reduce GHG emissions.

Howard Feldman, API director of regulatory and scientific affairs, said industry will continue making progress to reduce emissions voluntarily and in compliance with EPA’s recent emissions standards. “Capturing methane is helping operators deliver more natural gas to consumers, creating a built-in incentive to continue reducing these emissions,” Feldman said.

He emphasized the study results help show that additional regulation on top of existing federal, state, and local regulations are not necessary.

“In fact, safe and responsible development of energy from shale has helped the US cut carbon dioxide emission to near 20-year lows.” Feldman said.

Erica Bowman, vice-president of research and policy analysis for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, also welcomed the study results.

“We are continually putting into operation equipment and practices that demonstrate our commitment to lower emissions in the production process,” Bowman said. “We look forward to working with stakeholders to ensure the best science is applied in future study of this issue.”

EDF said the report marked the first of 16 methane emissions studies in a comprehensive initiative. The study marks what EDF calls “the opening chapter in this broader scientific effort designed to advance the current understanding of the climate implications of methane emissions resulting from the US natural gas boom.”

Fred Krupp, EDF president, acknowledged that “immediate methane reductions are critical to slow climate change,” adding, “But we don’t yet have a handle on how much is being emitted. We need better data, and that’s what this series of studies will deliver.”

He said new EPA wellhead emission regulations are effective. The overall research effort started last year to measure methane emissions associated with  gas production, gathering lines and processing facilities, long-distance pipelines and storage, local distribution, and commercial trucks and refueling stations.

Various scientific methods are being used across the various studies, including approaches that measure emissions directly at the source and those that use airplanes or towers equipped with sensors to measure total emissions in a given area.

EDF anticipates all will be submitted for publication in peer-reviewed journals. The overall effort is scheduled to be completed in late 2014.

Study findings

The initial study report noted that findings showed higher emissions from pneumatic controllers and equipment leaks than EPA emission estimates. There was significant geographic variability in emissions from pneumatic pumps and controllers, researchers said.

The 190 onshore gas sites used for measurements involved the Gulf of Mexico coast, Rocky Mountains, and Appalachian regions.

Emission measurements were performed for 27 well completion flowbacks, 9 liquids unloadings, 4 well workovers, and 150 production sites of which 489 wells involved hydraulic fracturing.

“One important result from the measurements…is that current EPA estimation methods overpredict measured emissions,” the study said in its findings on unloadings. “There are multiple methods of unloading a gas well, some of which do not result in emissions.”

The UT-led study involved sampling performed for unloadings in which an operator manually bypassed the well’s separator.

Researchers said the overall implication is “a large uncertainty” in the national emissions from gas well unloadings. “It is also clear from the data that properly accounting for unloading emissions will be important in reconciling emission inventories with regional ambient measurements.”

Contact Paula Dittrick at paulad@ogjonline.com.

Related Articles

Statoil reduces capital budget by $2 billion following 4Q losses

02/06/2015 Statoil ASA has reduced its organic capital expenditure to $18 billion in 2015 from $20 billion in 2014. The move comes on the heels of a fourth qu...

Chinese regulators approve Sinopec’s plan for grassroots refinery

02/06/2015 China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has approved Sinopec Beijing Yanshan Petrochemical Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China Nation...

BOEM schedules public meetings about draft proposed 5-year OCS plan

02/06/2015 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the first of 20 public meetings in Washington on Feb. 9 to receive public comments on potential ...

Union strike ongoing at US refineries as negotiations continue

02/06/2015 A strike by union workers at nine US refining and petrochemical production plants remains under way as the United Steelworkers Union (USW) continue...

NCOC lets $1.8-billion pipeline contract for Kashagan field

02/06/2015 North Caspian Operating Co. (NCOC) has let a $1.8-billion engineering and construction contract to ERSAI Caspian Contractor LLC, a subsidiary of Sa...

AOPL releases 2015 safety performance and strategic planning report

02/06/2015 The Association of Oil Pipe Lines is committed to further improvements despite a 99.99% safe petroleum liquids delivery rate, AOPL Pres. and Chief ...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX oil price bounces back up somewhat

02/06/2015 Crude oil prices on the New York market bounced up $2/bbl to settle slightly above $50/bbl Feb. 5. The positive momentum continued during early Jan...

Congressional Republicans renew bid to halt sue-and-settle maneuvers

02/05/2015 Calling it an affront to regulatory accountability that results in unchecked compliance burdens, US Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and US Rep. D...

Oil-price collapse may aggravate producing nations’ other problems

02/05/2015 The recent global crude-oil price plunge could be aggravating underlying problems in Mexico, Colombia, and other Western Hemisphere producing natio...
White Papers

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...

Accurate Thermo-Fluid Simulation in Real Time Environments

The crux of any task undertaken in System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis is striking a balance between ti...
Available Webcasts


Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

When Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


The Future of US Refining

Fri, Feb 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Feb. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on the future of US refining as various forces this year conspire to pull the industry in different directions. Lower oil prices generally reduce feedstock costs, but they have also lowered refiners’ returns, as 2015 begins with refined products priced at lows not seen in years. If lower per-barrel crude prices dampen production of lighter crudes among shale plays, what will happen to refiners’ plans to export more barrels of lighter crudes? And as always, refiners will be affected by government regulations, particularly those that suppress demand, increase costs, or limit access to markets or supply.

register:WEBCAST


Emerson Micro Motion Videos

Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected