EPA Estimates For Methane Emissions Are Off

The EPA may not have accurately predicted where methane leaks were taking place.
A fracking wastewater impoundment. (Photo: National Energy Technology Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy.

A fracking wastewater impoundment. (Photo: National Energy Technology Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy.

By Marissa Higdon

At a hearing of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, researchers said the EPA estimates of the amount of methane emissions leaked into the atmosphere in 2011 were not totally accurate.

The EPA estimated that the oil and gas industries would leak approximately 8.4 million metric tons of methane, which was not that different from the numbers found by the study. Yet, the EPA did not accurately predict where methane leaks were taking place. They predicted that there would be more leakage from the hydraulically fractured wells then there really were, and the EPA predicted that there would be less leakage from equipment leaks than what was actually measured.

This means that the main focus of reducing methane emissions should be equipment leaks not hydraulically fractured well completions, said the General Counsel and President of the V+ Development Solutions Division of Southwestern Energy Company Mark Boling.

“This study shows that the amount of methane emissions form the natural gas production sector can be effectively minimized by applying reasonable emission capture and control practices,” he said.

Dr. Vignesh Gowrishankar, the Staff Scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council said the new data reveals where new, cost effective regulation can be implemented, but Darren Smith, the Environmental Manager of Devon Energy Corporation said the industry will work to reduce methane emissions on its own.


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