Methane – an inefficient industry misleads on emissions

Methane Is Leaking From Natural Gas Processing Plants At Much Higher Rates Than Reported
[Via ThinkProgress]

Natural gas gathering and processing plants leak much more methane than producers have reported, and even more than the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated, according to a study released Tuesday.

Researchers at Colorado State University found that U.S. gathering and processing facilities — where natural gas from nearby wells is consolidated for distribution through pipelines — leak 2,421,000 metric tons of methane each year. The facilities emit 100 billion cubic feet of natural gas every year, roughly eight times the amount previously estimated by the EPA.

Gathering facilities “could be responsible for something like 30 percent of emissions for all natural gas production,” the study’s lead researcher, Anthony Marchese, said on a press call Tuesday.


Just a rough calculation reveals that at least $300 million is wasted every year. And that this loss may be responsible for 30% of all methane emissions.

One plant leaked almost 10% of all the methane it received.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Over a 20 year period, methane demonstrates 72 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.

So burning it, converting it to carbon dioxide, actually reduces the possible global warming potential of methane.

Methane that works even more efficiently than carbon dioxide to retain heat. The researchers estimate that the amount of methane leaked is equivalent to 37 coal-powered power plants.

Not only do we not get the power use of this energy source, we do not even get the benefit of converting it to a less potent greenhouse gas.

The costs of this leakage have tremendous impacts. not only on the cost of power but on the climate.

What sort of industry wastes hundreds of millions of dollars when it does not have to? Especially wasting it in a way that hurts all of humanity? Especially wasting it and misleading  us (if not outright lying)?

The industry said it only lost 500 metric tons of methane at these gathering plants. The researchers report that the actual leakage is 2,421,000 metric tons.

Close. Within a factor of 5000. But most plants do not report leakage at all.

So, an industry comfortable with wasting huge amounts of profits in ways that substantially hurt the environment while severely under-reporting the amounts it does waste.

That sort if industry.

Wonder how much their lobbying efforts cost? Well, oil and gas companies spend about $150 million a year lobbying Congress, with well over 800 lobbyists (over 60% of the lobbyists formerly worked for our government). They also spent over $70 million in 2012 supporting Federal candidates, 90% going to the GOP.

So spending over $220 million while leaking at least $300 million. Half a billion dollars not going to the shareholders, even as the companies cause tremendous environmental damage.

Maybe that should change.

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan