Measuring Emissions from Oil and Gas Drilling

September 30, 2014

Description:

CIRES, NOAA study confirms leaks from oil and gas operations

During two days of intensive airborne measurements, oil and gas operations in Colorado’s Front Range leaked nearly three times as much methane, a greenhouse gas, as predicted based on inventory estimates, and seven times as much benzene, a regulated air toxic. Emissions of other chemicals that contribute to summertime ozone pollution were about twice as high as estimates, according to the new paper, accepted for publication in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres.

When a natural gas facility was built locally in the mid 80s, I was convinced it was a good idea as a “bridge” to the renewable technologies that I knew would eventually be taking over, in response to the growing consensus on global warming.

I did not anticipate that the disinformation campaign against science would be so strong and long lasting, nor that the media would be so compliant, and our politicians so craven.
Natural gas will obviously play a role for some decades to come, but further envisioning of gas as the solution to our climate problems has become insupportable.
A new study questions the utility of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” – and that’s when envisioning only a 1.5 percent leakage rate in the system, which seems increasingly naive.

EcoWatch:

study published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that switching from coal to natural gas would not significantly lower the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change.

That’s chiefly because the shift would delay the deployment and cost-competitiveness ofrenewable electricity technologies for making electricity,” concluded the three researchers from the University of California Irvine, Stanford University and Seattle-based nonprofit Net Zero.

“Increased use of natural gas has been promoted as a means of decarbonizing the U.S. power sector, because of superior generator efficiency and lower CO2 emissions per unit of electricity than coal,” said the study. “We model the effect of different gas supplies on the U.S. power sector and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Across a range of climate policies, we find that abundant natural gas decreases use of both coal and renewable energy technologies in the future.”

The study found that, without a climate policy, electricity use would increase as the natural gas supply increased and cost dropped, canceling out the benefits of lower carbon emissions, even if methane leakage from natural gas exploration—itself a potent greenhouse gas—were near zero. It also found that the low cost of natural gas would discourage and delay development and deployment of clean energy technologies. The research team looked at outcomes with no climate policy, a moderate carbon tax of $25 per ton and a strict carbon cap that reduces carbon dioxide emissions 83 percent over 2005 levels by 2050, as well as with renewable energy standards.

“Our results suggest that without strong limits on GHG emissions or policies that explicitly encourage renewable electricity, abundant natural gas may actually slow the process of decarbonization, primarily by delaying deployment of renewable energy technologies,” the researchers said.

According to the study, coal provides 41 percent of power in the U.S. Natural gas-fired plants emit 57 percent less Co2 per kilowatt hour than coal-fired plants.

“The potential for natural gas to reduce U.S. emissions has become increasingly salient as innovations in hydraulic fracturing technology have dramatically increased domestic supplies of gas, and as proposed federal regulations on CO2 emissions from stationary sources are projected to increase the substitution of natural gas for coal,” said the study. “Although the finding that natural gas alone will not significantly reduce CO2 emissions is consistent with previous reports, we believe the important implications for climate-energy policy are nonetheless not widely appreciated.”

“Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies,” said Steven Davis, one of the researchers.”It may be better than eating full-fat cookies, but if you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether.”

 

 

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6 Responses to “Measuring Emissions from Oil and Gas Drilling”


  1. Don’t know about the dieting analogy being exact. I will say this. Efficiency has an inverse relationship to energy cost. Not just natural gas, but any cheap energy source will fuel compound growth because that’s how the economy works. Right now, oil got expensive, then plateaued. That corresponds with recent economic history . There particular consequences of using natural gas. The leakage, and attendant increase in the economy are a few. No matter which method of energy is used, there are consequent downsides to unlimited exponential growth that cannot be sustained. Our goal must be to get to a sustainable future. That must be renewable, by definition, whichever techniques are used.
    The analogy holds by the idea that an economic surge could increase demand so that the same amount of downsides are produced only at a higher level of consumption.

    • omnologos Says:

      Breaking news…choice is difficult!

      By preventing the low-fat cookies the EU is going fast and strong into coal burning. How can that be of any help is anybody’s wonder.

      Likewise a full shift into renewables means a jump in the dark with near-certain present poverty instead of highly uncertain future problems.

      The most logical option appears to be having rich nations spend a lot of their money into developing renewables, with the promise of sharing the patents afterwards. But this involves a lot of government intervention and its accompanying graft.

      That’s an illustration IMHO of why so many people prefer to shout against deniers and the Koch machine…much, much easier than having to make a choice.

    • dumboldguy Says:

      The “dieting analogy” IS quite exact if you think about it. Look at again—-what you say about demand and growth and sustainability is true, but I think you’ve confused things a bit with “The analogy holds by the idea that an economic surge could increase demand so that the same amount of downsides are produced only at a higher level of consumption”.

      “Cutting greenhouse gas emissions by burning natural gas is like dieting by eating reduced-fat cookies,” said Steven Davis, one of the researchers.”It may be better than eating full-fat cookies, but if you really want to lose weight, you probably need to avoid cookies altogether.”

      I read that as “burning natural gas produces less CO2 than burning coal or oil, and that’s an improvement (ignoring “leakages”), but if we really want to cut GHG emissions, (i.e., not get “fat” and instead actually lose “weight”) we have to stop burning fossil fuels altogether”.


  2. […] Measuring Emissions from Oil and Gas Drilling | Climate … https://climatecrocks.com/Description: CIRES, NOAA study confirms leaks from oil and gas operations During two days of intensive airborne measurements, oil and gas operations in Colorado's Front Range leaked nearly three times as much methane, … […]


  3. […] Description: CIRES, NOAA study confirms leaks from oil and gas operations During two days of intensive airborne measurements, oil and gas operations in Colorado's Front Range leaked nearly three ti…  […]


  4. The authors have this to say about the only scalable, carbon-free base load option available:

    In our results, natural gas supply does not have a noticeable impact on the use and deployment of nuclear energy or carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies. The use of nuclear energy in our simulations is constant regardless of gas supply or policy

    In other words, they disregarded the one thing proven to be able to slash carbon emissions by the required degree (90%) to reach neutrality.  All of the “renewable” nations are burning copious quantities of coal and have no plans to stop.

    Nuclear policy does affect gas consumption.  The shutdown-by-regulatory-delay of San Onofre has made California’s carbon goals essentially impossible to meet.


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