Published on
Common Dreams

'Alarmingly High Methane Emissions' from Natural Gas Extraction

New findings suggest higher than previously noted levels of potent greenhouse gas leaked

Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Flares at a natural gas refinery in Colorado. (Photo: Tim Hurst via flickr)

New research on "alarmingly high methane emissions" brings further environmental scrutiny to natural gas extraction including fracking, and illustrates how the boom in the industry may well be a plan for climate disaster.

The findings, led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), were presented at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) meeting in San Francisco, the journal Nature reports, and reiterated data the team first noted in February of 2012 that 4% of the methane produced at a field near Denver was escaping into the atmosphere. The team also presented preliminary findings from a Utah study that suggested an even higher rate of methane emissions—9% of the total production.

NOAA describes methane as 25 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than CO2.


Never Miss a Beat.

Get our best delivered to your inbox.

"We were expecting to see high methane levels, but I don’t think anybody really comprehended the true magnitude of what we would see," says Colm Sweeney, who led the aerial component of the study as head of the aircraft program at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder.

Jeff Tollefson explains in Nature that the percentage of methane leaked is key to determining whether switching to natural gas from coal-fired generators has a climate benefit; it must be less than 3.2% for that to be the case, he writes.

The Obama administration has embraced fracking as part of its "all-of-the-above" energy strategy.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article