The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports how many greenhouse gases are put into the atmosphere by different methods. One is the methane from oil and gas fields. The EPA reported the amount to America, and there has been no problem. However, recent studies have shown the amount methane released is far larger than the amount the EPA reports. 60% larger, to be precise.
The new study was conducted by scientists that work with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). The study presents some of the most influential evidence to date about how switching to energy from gas instead of coal is not as good of a climate solution as some once thought they would be.
"It starts to have a material effect on just how clean a fuel natural gas really is"
said Ramon Alvarez, one of the authors of the study.
The study estimates that methane equivalent to 2.3% of all natural gas in the nation is leaked in production, processing, and transportation of gas and oil in the world. This is not including what is released during leaks from local delivery lines, which is another large problem.
The impact of this methane is widespread and dangerous. Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant, with all of it dissipating within 100 years of the release. However, it does extensive damage while it is in the atmosphere, making it one of the most potent climate pollutants. This methane, if it keeps getting released, could raise our temperature up significantly.
In fact, the study authors estimate that this methane could have the same short-term effect as all the coal-fired power plants in the United States.
There are many places that this methane could be released from. However, the main source of the extra methane is from sudden operation failures, and not chronic failures. The reason for the EPA mistake was possible because of the company's failure to report these leaks. Alvarez states that
"Ninety percent was coming from tanks–the vents and hatches"
They learned that the machines are venting very frequently and therefore releasing large amounts of methane into the air.
The authors of the study have expressed the need for companies to go to greater lengths to survey the leaks from their equipment.