NOAA Study: U.S. Methane Emissions Flat as Natural Gas Production Increases

Total U.S. methane emissions has remained flat since 2006 as domestic natural gas production increased 46 percent, according to a new peer-reviewed study by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Conducted using “highly accurate measurements of methane collected over 10 years at 20 long-term sampling sites around the country,” the study found that there was no statistically significant increase in total methane from the United States. As lead author Xin Lan explained in an agency announcement:

“We analyzed a decade’s worth of data and while we do find some increase in methane downwind of oil and gas activity, we do not find a statistically significant trend in the U.S. for total methane emissions.”

Importantly, the researchers also concluded previous studies relied on faulty measurements, resulting in miscalculated estimates that led to “major over-estimations” of methane emissions from oil and gas production in the United States, by as much as 10-fold in some cases.

According to E&E News:

“Some studies, relying on ethane measurements, assumed that the oil and gas operations in the United States have made the biggest increases. Instead, according to Lan and other researchers, the spike in methane is more likely to have been caused by natural emissions whose sources can include the digestive tracts of cows, rotting vegetable matter and the activities of termites.”

Pennsylvania’s modern, effective regulatory program addresses methane emissions and requires operators to follow strict leak detection, repair and reporting standards. NOAA’s conclusions, in fact, come on the heels of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory which found methane emissions have plummeted 18.8% from 1990.

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