Huge Methane Spike may be Tied to Fracking

February 22, 2016


Methane gas flares in North Dakota oil fields – visible from space.

Climate Central:

There was a huge global spike in one of the most potent greenhouse gases driving climate change over the last decade, and the U.S. may be the biggest culprit, according a new Harvard University study.

The United States alone could be responsible for between 30 percent and 60 percent of the global growth in human-caused atmospheric methane emissions since 2002 because of a 30 percent spike in methane emissions across the country, the study says.

The research shows that emissions increased the most in the middle of the country, but the authors said there is too little data to identify specific sources. However, the increase occurred at the same time as America’s shale oil and gas boom, which has been associated with large amounts of methane leaking from oil and gas wells and pipelines nationwide.

“I’d say the biggest takeaway is that there is more we — the U.S. — could be doing to reduce our methane emissions to combat climate change,” study lead author Alex Turner, a Harvard University chemical engineering Ph.D. candidate, said.

The Aliso Canyon gas leak in California, which was plugged last week after a nearly four-month effort to contain it, has brought new attention to methane. The gas is roughly 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a period of 20 years, or 35 times as potent over the span of a century. The Aliso leak spewed enough methane into the atmosphere to equal the greenhouse gases emitted by more than 440,000 cars in a year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trying to rein in methane emissions from oil and gas operations, and has proposed new rules to curb them from oil and gas wells. The Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan seeks to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry by up to 45 percent below 2012 levels by 2025.

Global methane emissions have risen and fallen several times since the 1980s, Turner said, but they’ve been rising continuously since 2007.

“The causes for this renewed growth are currently unknown,” he said,

In the U.S., the official government tally of the country’s annual human-caused methane emissions between 2002 and 2012 shows that emissions have been about 29 million metric tons annually, without any significant trends up or down. Research by Turner’s team, however, showed that emissions ranged from about 39 million tons to about 52 million tons during that period. The team based its findings on satellite data.

The Harvard study, published last week in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, adds to mounting research that shows that the government’s official tally of methane emissions is not consistent with observations made by universities and other institutions.

The official tally, taking what ‘s known as a “bottom-up” approach, calculates methane emissions based on expected leak rates at oil and gas well sites, not actual measurements. The Harvard researchers used a “top-down” method, calculating emissions based on actual satellite measurements, showing that U.S. methane emissions are far greater than those estimated by the government.


7 Responses to “Huge Methane Spike may be Tied to Fracking”

  1. pendantry Says:

    I consider the difference between two headlines:

    “Huge Methane Spike may be Tied to Fracking”


    “Huge Methane Spike is Tied to Fracking”

    … and I wonder how many folk actually think:

    “Ain’t plausible deniability great?”

  2. dumboldguy Says:

    Ho-hum. Another methane spike? And gas flaring in North Dakota visible from space? We haven’t done much about the methane spike discovered a few years back in the Four Corners area. Or the methane that seems to be erupting wherever gas or oil wells are drilled, processing plants are built, or pipelines are run to transport the fossil fuels Let’s just keep pumping it out until we hit a tipping point and set off the methane bomb, then we’ll have lots of it and can REALLY see if it’s as bad as the scientists say.

    “The causes for this renewed growth are currently unknown”. Really?

    “….mounting research that shows that the government’s official tally of methane emissions is not consistent with observations made by universities and other institutions”. Is someone lying to us? Is Donald Trump going to fix this too?

  3. indy222 Says:

    Scientists have been saying that we don’t have enough data-taking instrumentation in the places needed to understand methane emissions and prospects, and I don’t doubt the truth of that. It’s one thing to say the source is “unknown” (I accept we’re not sure) and quite another if someone were to say “unexpected and not what we figured would happen” (which would be, well DUMB)

  4. Daniel Ferra Says:

    There is No Atmospheric Budget of Carbon, Methane, or Nuclear !

    We must Stop the Koch bros,Warren Buffets, and their Fossil Fuel allies from FUKUSHIMIATIZING Us !

    Greenland is Melting and Calving Now, Jonas just went over Greenland at above Freezing Temps, for the first Time.

    “And for the Winter of 2016 it’s possible that the Arctic may never experience typical conditions. For, according to NOAA, the first half of February saw this record, Spring-like, warmth extend on through today. It’s as if these coldest zones in the Northern Hemisphere haven’t yet experienced Winter — as if the freak storm that drove Arctic temperatures to record levels during late December has, ever since, jammed the thermometer into typical April levels and left it stuck there. ” Robert Scribbler

    Greenland has 20 Feet of Sea Level Rise !

    Now is the Time for Feed in Tariff Clean Kilowatts, Home Owners and Commercial Business owners selling Renewable Energy, Wind and Solar to the Utility !

    Dump Net Metering (Second Utility) Third Party Leasing.

    Protect Our Communities with Solar Policies that keep the Money in the Wallets and Purses of Head of House Holds.

    In Order to Ready Themselves for coming, Record Breaking Rain, Wind and Snow.

    Food Shortages, High Temps, Floods, Fire, Quakes, and Sea Level Rising 220 feet !

    With Ca. Residential and Commercial Feed in Tariff

    Help Protect Hard Working, Tax Paying, Voting, Citizens from our Koch Bros.,Fossil Fueled Energy and Water Policies !

    Each 1C. Temp Rise, Atmospheric Moisture increases 7%

    We have increased Temp 1.4C. and Climbing

    1850 ppm Carbon 270

    1980 ppm carbon 350

    2015 ppm of Carbon 404 and Rising

    What will the ppm of Carbon be when Greenland All Melts ?

    Diablo Nuclear, San Onofre Fuel Rods, and All Nuclear needs to be relocated to 3000 feet above Sea Level

    Over 3 Million Years of Waxing and Waning From the Poles, with the Arctic Keeping North America Cool, Now it is Greenland Because of Fossil Fuels !

    Massive Sea Life Die Off on Pacific and Atlantic Coast !

    Pacific and Atlantic Oceans 4 – 18 degrees warmer than Normal

    Antarctica has 200 feet of Sea Level Rise

    Arctic Region Warming Twice as fast as the rest of the planet !

    Over 400 Nuclear Reactors at Sea Level Now !

    Sign and Share for a Ca. Residential Feed in Tariff. Go to the youtube site, look six inches below video, click on Show More, then click on blue link to sign the petition.

    Attachments area
    Preview YouTube video We Need To Ban Fracking.
    We Need To Ban Fracking.
    Attachments area
    Preview YouTube video We Need To Ban Fracking.

  5. ” The gas is roughly 86 times as potent as carbon dioxide as a driver of climate change over a period of 20 years, or 35 times as potent over the span of a century.”

    If I may

    However the short term GHG effect (<10yr) is closer to 100 x CO2.
    The point is that increasing Global Methane level is all at this instant at max GHG potential, those lower figures reflect it's decrease over time, assuming it will decrease substantially axs more of the World takes the fracking and gas path and the permafrost and clathrates melt

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