5 avril 2021 The quest to quantify the environmental cost of abandoned oil wells. This story is part of a collaboration with The Texas Observer, with support by the Pulitzer Center. Amy Townsend-Small has been chasing methane her entire professional life. The quest has taken her from Southern California freeways to sewage plants to animal feedlots. Sniffing out the potent greenhouse gas, which traps 86 times as much heat as carbon dioxide after it’s emitted into the atmosphere, has required her to breathalyze cows and take chemical measurements at large manure lagoons.
When fracking took off around 2010, Townsend-Small shifted her focus to a new and growing problem: methane leaks from oil and gas activity. Natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane, was pitched as a fuel that could transition the U.S. to renewable energy, since it burns more cleanly than coal and is naturally abundant — and, thanks to fracking, newly inexpensive to extract.
Townsend-Small began trying to quantify just how much methane was leaking from wells and pipelines. Fracking wells released over 5 billion pounds of methane in one year. Being in close proximity to fracking operations could screw up your sexual health, cause developmental defects and cancer, induce seismic activity around you, and the list goes on.
Does all that doom and gloom seem, well, a little vague? An Environment America report released Thursday offers raw numbers, based on a set of industry-reported data going back for more than decade. Frackers, the report concludes, have used billions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals in at least 137,000 wells from 2005 to 2015, including: • 5 billion pounds of hydrochloric acid, a caustic acid• 1.2 billion pounds of petroleum distillates, which can irritate the throat, lungs and eyes; cause dizziness and nausea; and can include toxic and cancer-causing agents• 445 million pounds of methanol, which is suspected of causing birth defects Remember, that’s according to the industry’s own numbers. Tell President Obama and the EPA: Stop the worst methane leak in history.
Can you imagine if, during the three months of the Gulf Oil spill, President Obama hadn’t spoken about it, and hadn’t done anything to stop it? Right now, the worst environmental catastrophe since BP’s Deepwater Horizon spill is underway in Los Angeles, but President Obama hasn’t gotten involved. Since late October, an uncontrolled leak at SoCalGas’s Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in LA's Porter Ranch neighborhood, has been spewing 50 tons per hour of the potent greenhouse gas methane.1 Every day it continues is the climate equivalent of another 7 million cars on the road. But SoCalGas is saying it will be at least until March when they can stop it.
Thousands of families have been relocated and Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency. Tell President Obama and the EPA: Stop the Porter Ranch gas leak and make sure this never happens again. Regulation of the industry has been pitiful. But the fact is, this is not simply an isolated California public health crisis. How the huge gas leak is turning California’s Porter Ranch into a ghost town. This story was originally published by Newsweek and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
In the winter of 2008, a real estate column in the Los Angeles Times profiled Porter Ranch, a collection of subdivisions in the San Fernando Valley that feels utterly removed from the huge city on whose northern edge it lies. The neighborhood is “graced with lush parks,” the Neighborly Advice column gushed, and “attracts residents seeking sanctuary from the urban hubbub.” Toll Brothers, the upscale builder that has developed much of the land here, promises potential residents they will “relax in open, natural spaces and live within a true community.” Until very recently, you would have had to do a considerable amount of internet sleuthing to discover that Porter Ranch, home to 30,000 people, is not exactly the pristine, quasi-rural paradise promised by its developers and boosters.
As for the much-touted serenity of Porter Ranch, that’s also gone. Boots and Coots Abandoned. Environmental Action Plug the Fracking Leaks EPA! Friends of the Earth. Methane is leaking out all over the damn place, thanks to the oil and gas industry. Methane, the second most common greenhouse gas emitted by the U.S., is a scary, scary thing. Thanks to two new studies, we just found out a bit more about how, through drilling for oil and gas, it leaks into the air. Compared with CO2, methane is frighteningly potent — it’s 86 times more effective at trapping heat than CO2 over a 20-year time period. Even though the EPA estimates that methane is only 9 percent of the greenhouse gas cocktail the U.S. is tossing into the sky, the Environmental Defense Fund estimates that methane is responsible for around 25 percent of the human-made global warming we’re experiencing.
The biggest source of methane emissions? The oil and gas industry, of course. The first new study, put out by Princeton University and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that millions of unused oil and gas wells across America could be leaking significant amounts of unreported methane. “The last we heard was the same. Bad News for Obama: Fracking May Be Worse Than Burning Coal. But he was able nonetheless to claim a victory of sorts. His accession to office coincided (coincidentally) with the widespread adoption of hydraulic fracking to drill for natural gas, resulting in a sudden boom in supplies and a rapid drop in price, to the point where gas began to supplant coal as the fuel of choice for American power plants.
As a result (and as a result of the recession Obama also inherited), the nation's carbon dioxide emissions began to fall modestly. For a political leader, it was the very definition of a lucky break: Without having to do much heavy lifting against the power of the fossil fuel industry, the administration was able to produce results. In fact, it gave Obama cover from the right, as he in essence turned the GOP chant of "Drill Baby Drill" into "Frack Baby Frack.
" Not only that, the cheap gas was a boost to sputtering American manufacturing, making it profitable once again to make chemicals and other goods close to home. "All wells leak. 1. 2. 3. 4. Frackers are flooding the atmosphere with climate-warming methane. The free pass that frackers and natural-gas handlers have gotten on their climate-changing methane emissions is really starting to stink to high hell.
We told you in February about the results of a meta-analysis of 20 years worth of scientific studies, which concluded that the EPA underestimates the natural-gas industry’s climate impacts by 25 to 75 percent, due to methane leakage from its gas drilling operations and pipelines. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is a potent greenhouse gas. Two scientific studies published in the past month reveal that the problem is far worse than that. For a paper published last week in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, researchers flew aircraft over a heavily fracked region in northeastern Colorado and took air samples.
Not only that, but cancer-causing benzene emissions were found to be seven times higher than the EPA’s estimates, while emissions of some smog-forming chemicals were found to be double the EPA’s estimates. America’s natural gas system is super-leaky, and that’s bad news for the climate. Like a free-riding bus passenger whose expired ticket gets overlooked by the driver, the natural gas industry has been getting a free pass from the EPA for its global warming impacts for well over a decade. A new mega-analysis of 20 years worth of research suggests that the EPA is underestimating the fossil fuel’s climate impacts by 25 to 75 percent. The problem with the EPA’s math doesn’t concern the burning of natural gas, which produces less carbon dioxide than other fossil fuels (but way more than solar panels or wind turbines). The problem is in the leaky systems that extract and transport the fuel.
The EPA relies on 1990s estimations to calculate the climate-warming effects of the natural gas industry. A new paper published in the journal Science concludes that the EPA is severely underestimating the amount of natural gas that leaks into the atmosphere during drilling, processing, and distribution. And those leaks are important, because natural gas is basically just methane. EPA Significantly Underestimating Methane Gas From Fracking. A major new study blows up the whole notion of natural gas as a short-term bridge fuel to a carbon-free economy. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4), a potent heat-trapping gas. If, as now seems likely, natural gas production systems leak 2.7% (or more), then gas-fired power loses its near-term advantage over coal and becomes more of a gangplank than a bridge. Worse, without a carbon price, some gas displaces renewable energy, further undercutting any benefit it might have had. Fifteen scientists from some of the leading institutions in the world — including Harvard, NOAA and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab — have published a seminal study, “Anthropogenic emissions of methane in the United States.”
Crucially, it is based on “comprehensive atmospheric methane observations, extensive spatial datasets, and a high-resolution atmospheric transport model,” rather than the industry-provided numbers EPA uses. D’oh! How much larger? He added, “That methane bridge is starting to crack.” Gaz de schiste : des fuites de méthane plus importantes que prévu. The Intersection Between Hydraulic Fracturing and Climate Change: 6 min video. Methane leaks could negate climate benefits of US natural gas boom: report | Environment. There is also a growing body of evidence that the release of methane gas from well sites and pipelines is far higher than previously thought. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Getty Images Methane leaks could undo the climate change benefits of America's natural gas boom, a new report said on Tuesday.
The report, produced by the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES), said America's shift from coal to gas had produced important climate gains. Carbon dioxide emissions fell last year to their lowest point since 1994, according to the Department of Energy. Energy-related carbon dioxide emissions were 12% below 2005 levels. But the report said those reductions were not enough, on their own, to escape the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. They were also being offset by a sharp rise in methane, the most powerful greenhouse gas on a human timescale, that was being released into the atmosphere at well sites, compressor stations and along pipelines. "It is a wash. Emissions of Methane in U.S. Exceed Estimates, Study Finds. The analysis also said that methane discharges in Texas and Oklahoma, where oil and gas production was concentrated at the time, were 2.7 times greater than conventional estimates.
Emissions from oil and gas activity alone could be five times greater than the prevailing estimate, the report said. The study relies on nearly 12,700 measurements of atmospheric methane in 2007 and 2008. Its conclusions are sharply at odds with the two most comprehensive estimates of methane emissions, by the Environmental Protection Agency and an alliance of the Netherlands and the European Commission. The E.P.A. has stated that all emissions of methane, from both man-made and natural sources, have been slowly but steadily declining since the mid-1990s.
In April, the agency reduced its estimate of methane discharges from 1990 through 2010 by 8 to 12 percent, largely citing sharp decreases in discharges from gas production and transmission, landfills and coal mines. Mr. Colorado to crack down on methane emissions from fracking. Colorado health officials announced new rules on Monday that would work to cut the air pollution produced by oil and gas operations in the state. The rules would force companies to capture 95 percent of all toxic pollutants and volatile organic compounds they emit. In addition, the rules include a requirement that companies control emissions of the potent greenhouse gas methane, marking the first time a state has drafted rules to directly address the methane emitted by oil and gas operations, according to The Denver Post. “These are going to amount to the very best air quality regulations in the country,” Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said. Methane is a key driver of climate change; the greenhouse gas is 25 times more potent than CO2 over a century and 72 to 100 times more potent over a 20-year period.
As a result, state health chief Larry Wolk said the state could cut overall air pollution by 92,000 tons a year — roughly equivalent to taking every car in the state off the road for a year. Failure to account for “fugitive” methane gas could undercut BC's climate change efforts, experts say. A failure to account for “fugitive” gases released accidentally from gas wells and pipelines could have serious repercussions as oil and gas exploration heats up in British Columbia, experts say. Canada’s Pembina Institute is calling for more studies into “fugitive” methane leakage near gas production facilities in British Columbia following a recent study in the US that revealed substantial levels of escaping methane gas. “We have recommended that the issue of fugitive emissions from shale gas in Canada be studied more closely given the range of conclusions that are being drawn from U.S. studies,” Pembina Institute climate change program director Matt Horne said. “There is unnecessary uncertainty about the volumes of methane not getting into the pipeline system, and how much of that is flared vs released as methane.”
Methane is the primary component in natural gas and is far more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming gas. The equivalent of adding a million more cars on BC's roads. Frackers Are Losing $1.5 Billion Yearly to Leaks. Of all the many and varied consequences of fracking (water contamination, injured workers, earthquakes, the list goes on) one of the least understood is so-called "fugitive" methane emissions. Methane is the primary ingredient of natural gas, and it escapes into the atmosphere at every stage of production: at wells, in processing plants, and in pipes on its way to your house.
According to a new study, it could become one of the worst climate impacts of the fracking boom—and yet, it's one of the easiest to tackle right away. Best of all, fixing the leaks is good for the bottom line. According to the World Resources Institute, natural gas producers allow $1.5 billion worth of methane to escape from their operations every year. Courtesy WRI "Those leaks are everywhere," said WRI analyst James Bradbury, so fixing them would be "super low-hanging fruit. " The problem, he says, is that right now those emissions aren't directly regulated by the EPA. So what's the holdup?