Update February 2015
Media Contact: Anna Geismar, firstname.lastname@example.org, (512) 691-3468
By: Mark Brownstein, Associate Vice President, U.S. Climate & Energy
In the summer of 2013, researchers aboard a four-engine P-3 Orion aircraft – a variant of the plane used by the U.S. Navy to track submarines – flew over three of the nation’s biggest shale gas regions, taking measurements that would allow them to estimate the amount of methane leaking from the production fields below.
The team from University of Colorado’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory published their findings this week in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, adding new depth to our understanding of methane leaks, but also underscoring important questions.
Comparing their readings to production figures for the region, they estimated a total leak rate of 0.18 to 2.8 percent, which is at the low end of the range of findings in other research. For some, this may be cause for celebration.
But don’t pop the champagne corks just yet.
The study is just one snapshot – data from one afternoon, on one day, in each of the three places.
The study, which looked at gas fields in Louisiana and Texas, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania, offers a one-day snapshot of what was happening on the ground, as measured from the air. A one-day survey can produce results with a significant range of uncertainty.
For example, another flyover study of Utah’s Uinta Basin, also led by researchers from NOAA and CIRES, showed leak rates ranging from 6.2 to 11.7 percent, and an additional flyover of the Denver-Julesburg Basin, led by NOAA, found leak rates in the range of 2.5 to 5.7 percent. This is just the case with the new study published today, which recorded methane leak rates from 0.18 to 0.41 percent in the Marcellus Shale to 1.0 to 2.8 percent in the Fayetteville.
More robust studies that cover longer time periods actually suggest methane emissions are often higher than previously estimated. EDF’s own studies – including two released last week looking at the transmission and storage and gathering and processing sectors of the oil and gas industry – have repeatedly shown that random leaks and malfunctions are a major source of emissions.
Because these events are random, a one-day overflight will not give a full picture of emissions coming from a basin over a day, a month, or a year. What is needed is regular and ongoing monitoring.
This is why major oil and gas producing states like Colorado, Ohio, and Wyoming are instituting ongoing leak detection and repair programs and why states like Pennsylvania can continue to move the ball forward and show leadership by enacting strong methane regulations. The federal government has also recognized the importance of these measures, with the White House announcing in January a goal of reducing methane emissions 40 to 45 percent by 2025. The rules EPA will propose this summer to achieve that goal will likely include efforts to enhance emissions measurement and leak repair.
Leading companies recognize the need for such programs, too, with many joining us in the Methane Detectors Challenge, a project to identify and deploy technology capable of providing continuous emissions monitoring at sites.
Methane has the potential to undermine the climate benefits natural gas provides over other fossil fuels. If natural gas is to truly provide a cleaner energy alternative to get us on a path toward a non-carbon future, it must be produced responsibly, with strong regulations that require leak detection and repair to prevent harmful methane emissions.
The CIRES study is just one in what is becoming a large body of scientific analysis of methane emissions and doesn’t tell the full story. Continuing research by EDF and others will help us understand the bigger picture of these emissions and provide policymakers and industry leaders with the information they need to help prevent them.
update Dec 10 2014 http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es5040156
“Pneumatic controllers in level control applications on separators and in compressor applications had higher emission rates than controllers in other types of applications. ….Ave methane emissions per controller reported in this work are 17% higher than the average emissions per controller in the 2012 EPA greenhouse gas national emission inventory (2012 GHG NEI, released in 2014);”
And so what did energy paid shrill Steve Everley say in response to this?…
I repeat to Steve and will add the word HIGHER (my bad)… “ERG said in public presntion Ft Worth’s ambient methane was from 2.5-5 times HIGHER than world background levels. http://wp.me/p1HZ52-4v “
Back in June and early July of 2011, a study using air plane flyovers was undertaken, and I’m not surprised that it was (spoiler alert) a waste of money. After the ozone meeting (see details below) I had to ask Dr Allen (twice before I got an answer) if his presentation included information from the flyovers and as it turns out, it did not. He merely directed me to the study.
Someone mentioned of the results …“stuff is pretty inconclusive…and old. They admit they didn’t fly on the best, most representative days, and the data they got was mostly useless.”
The executive summary said that ….the aircraft data recorded some unusual VOC activity and therefore excluded the data…wtf?
The report went on to say that….although the NOX & VOC emissions from cars/mobile sources has steadily gone down but that the ozone levels haven’t followed that downward trend… and since so much gas drilling has taken place that more study is needed. So I am waiting for an answer in chasing down that airplane VOC data….
From: kim feil <email@example.com>
To: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
Cc: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>; “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2014 3:11 PM
Subject: Q on 2011 airplane air quality Barnett Shale study
Here in the DFW/Barnett Shale area, we have to reach the new federal OZONE reduction goal by 2018. The plan needs to be turned in by 2015 so we have 3 years to implement it to reach 75 ppb, but the last five years ave of 87 ppb…we’ve made no progress. If you have suggestions for how we can reduce ozone please send them ASAP to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 817 608 2342.
In the past SIP neither the TCEQ or the NCTCOG Air Quality Committee as a whole, felt that natural gas extraction activity in the Barnett Shale doesn’t need to be targeted for reductions because methane is low on the list of those chemicals highly reactive to ozone formation like NOX.
But this is TexASS and we have Frackademia money galore risking tainting real science, and it is extremely unlikely that will we ever reach a level of ozone attainment protective to public health.
Dr Allen, a chemistry professor from UT Austin Cockrell School of Engineering (who Rex Tillerson of Exxon just pledged $5 million to the school), gave a Barnett Shale related air quality presentation at the North Central Texas Council Of Governments to TCEQ on April 17, 2014.
Allen was appointed by our former EPA Chief to lead The Science Advisory Board back in 2012…really?…
Dr Allen started his presentation with disclosing the funding of the study which EDF was the only environmental group named. The other names I jotted down were…
He divided the emissions into three catagories (omitting the drilling & fracking phases’ emissions)…
1) Well Completion
3) Liquid Unloading
He talked about how the new EPA NSPS rules for green completions would offset the Methane emissions found from the pneumatic leaks. “Completion emissions are lower than previously estimated; Data show emissions from pneumatic controllers and equipment leaks are higher than EPA national emission projections; Estimates of total emissions are similar to the most recent EPA national inventory of methane emissions from natural gas production.”
My hand written notes show he said that these “routine type emissions” were found to be substantially understated especially for the midcontinent/Barnett Shale region when compared to other areas such as the Rocky Mountains, & Appalachians. Our Barnett Shale emissions came in second to the Gulf Coast’s unmitigated emissions.
There was mention of Chlorinated Emissions still mystifying the researchers in the quest for identifying constituents contributing to ozone creation.
As predicted, Dr Allen did NOT recommend that TCEQ adjust the State Implementation Plan (SIP) on Ozone attainment to restrict emissions from the Barnett Shale; so get ready to breathe the same o same o zone levels that are not healthy for us.
At the meeting, Dr Allen touted that they had 20 months of data that showed no episodic huge emission events (like liquid loading) here in the Barnett Shale, but later engineer, Dick Guldi, of the Sierra Club questioned Dr Allen and found that if any emission anomalies (like this or this?) did occur, that it is stastically buried. Here is the video of that exchange…
Rep. Lon Burnam questioned why it was reported that the state froze the funding of an agency who found a link with a recent ozone surge and fracking. Here is a quote from that link…“TCEQ-funded study, performed by the Alamo Area Council of Governments, a San Antonio-area regional planning agency, suggested a link between oil and gas drilling and a recent surge in the region’s ozone levels.” Dr Allen deferred that (bullying?) to the state, but did offer this explanation….he said that the NOX combining with the area’s higher natural VOC’s from vegetation was why the ozone spiked. Oh pleaze give me a frackademian break!
I sat through many a NCTCOG air quality meetings, and it is and will always probably continue to be a joke as long as the city coffers are lined with gas drillers money.
Some of the people that used to sit on those committees were not chosen by the tax payers, and yet our taxes support the NCTCOG.
Some of these city council members and mayors that used to sit on these committees also vote for gas well permits “and” get to manage/dispense the revenues and participate is prior years SIP planning….what a FAIL!
It all makes for a conflict of interest at the risk and expense of our lungs to take the brutal beatings…. sadly we have no say so in this.
However the good news was that UNT presented next on how drilling is linked as a persistent factor in our DFW smog. It was a thorough explanation by Dr Kuruvilla John who mentioned NObody paid for the study and that it was student driven.
My camera focused on the TCEQ guy and so in the above pic, I don’t have a great pic of Dr John whose presentation was thorough in the who, what, when, where, & how the data was processed including why they teased out meterological conditions to unveil the manmade portions of ozone contributors.
He divided the info into two time frames, pre 2007 and post 2007 data, and he divided the areas studied from the fracking and nonfracking air monitored sites in North Texas. The charts clearly showed a departure from the drilling verses the nondrilling areas where the ozone was higher in drilling areas.
The Star Telegram reported of Dr John’s study…“Based on the raw ozone data, the area without natural gas production, dubbed the “non-fracking region,” reduced the number of times it exceeded federal ozone standards about 4 percent more than the “fracking region.”
Fracking refers to hydraulic fracturing, a method of completing oil and gas wells, although the majority of emissions from oil and gas production take place after a well is completed.
John said a more worrisome finding came after adjusting the readings to eliminate weather-related factors such as temperature and wind, and looking at just the period after 2008, when ozone levels rose.
Ozone concentrations increased 12 percent during the summer in the fracking region, compared with 4 percent outside it, the study found. And during winter months, ozone levels rose 21 percent in the fracking region, compared with 5 percent outside it.”
Next TCEQ gave their presentation….
I am sad to report that after the TCEQ gave their lameo presentation,
appropriately Lon Burnam had to vent on how there still are
no real NEW plans to tackle ozone precursors
delt by the huge build out of our
Fearless Jim Schermbeck grilling the TCEQ who also addressed Dr John asking if the 2008 success in closing the cement kilns made the data less competitive to be able to see a better correlation of Barnett Shale related emissions on ozone verses the stuff historically coming off the cement plants.
Next, an Arlington democratic candidate “COZAD”, who is running against Representative (smokey) Joe Barton, spoke about how the price of NG may play a part in how sloppy drillers can be depending in emissions releases…. Here is the COZAD video link….
Gary Stuard made a remark on teasing out meteorologically important info when the reality of global warming (methanes indirect role in ozone) that goes back to drilling’s fingerprint with their methane leaks.
Lastly, although I did not get to officially speak, here are some points that I gave to the TCEQ folks in a hand-out as citizen participation was very limited…
- Barnett Shale created NOX especially with diesel drilling rigs have done damage in the last 7-10 years that is comparable to 1,479 years of Arlington’s General Motor’s plant NOX.
- Our Barnett Shale 18,000 gas wells’ VOC’s also are comparable to the VOC’s GM has created over a six and half year period (before the GM plant expansion)….so I will put pressure on the TCEQ to have an ozone monitor in the Entertainment District which is downwind to the GM plant and and the Chesapeake padsites (gaswells, compressors, etc) located on GM property.
- Methane’s warming effect (speeds up global warming) affects our ground level temps to become hotter which indirectly creates ozone. Warmer weather IS one of the factors in ozone formation…but we have a bunch of Perry appointed global warming deniers that are in leadership positions at the TCEQ…so they won’t put much stock in how methane losses are important to the SIP.
- I also learned that fracking and other seismic rock cracking events directly create ozone. “In research published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2011, Grant and a research team found that tectonic stresses in the Earth’s crust send “massive amounts of primarily positive air ions into the lower atmosphere.”
I did get to speak OUT at the end of the meeting on our “unknown and unregulated” synergistic pollution risk (1+1=5) to our airshed with
combinations of drill sites and compressor stations
being near other major emission sources in Arlington to include…
water treatment plants, and
and I asked for an ozone monitor in our Entertainment District
…then came the crickets… and the meeting abruptly adjourned. Thats when the WFAA reporter asked me to stay for a *sound bite interview which aired hours later.
After the meeting I spoke to Dr Allen because pollution levels being monitored from the sky by “da plane” are of interest lately as these “upper-end measurement” readings show how off base the EPA was at seven padsites that had emission readings taken by “da plane” in Pennsylvania. Those readings were found to have 100 up to 1,000 times more methane leaks than the EPA knew about. This was published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Dr Allen that those readings were high because they drilled into a coalbed methane seam. The LATimes reported... “Much of the natural gas drilling in southwestern Pennsylvania goes through coal beds, which contain methane that might be leaking out, according to the study.”
I also asked Dr David Allen about how they measured what was coming off the tanks that vent..his slide show picture showed that they covered the open top tank with plastic and routed a vent hose to the ground where they point source tested it….I asked him why can’t they add a “gas buster” to that exhaust pipe? He said it would still vent, and so I said so why don’t they use the closed vent, pressurized tanks when they do this in our back yards?…he had no answer and so I said….your Cockrell school jus rec’d a $5 million Rex Tillerson pledge a few days ago!…I told him when schools take that kind of money their science is not credible”….he stared straight ahead emotionless…so I got more in his face and said the public relys on the scientists like you to protect “us” cause the politicions are bought off”…he said all they did was take the measurements and its up to us….I jumped in and said “we are busy working…we cannot compete with that kind of money influence to make changes that protect us”.…then I told him I now live less than 1/2 mile from the Chesapeake drillsite by the Cowboys Stadium but have been down wind to the gaswells at GM & UT Arlington for the last 7 years. I told him about my husband’s cancer, my nose bleeds, & my son’s endocrine disruption. I told him about the lady at the Autozone that now is on the fenceline to those storage tanks who worked there for 13 years with no migraines and itchiness until last year which was how long our drill site has been in production. Folks…I’ve come to the sad conclusion that Dr Allen isn’t human… he’s an alien that doesn’t have to live on this planet?
He can go fly (not) da plane but a kite…just like that TCEQ guy who doesn’t think ozone and fracking are a problem….
From: Chris Klaus <CKlaus@nctcog.org>
To: kim feil <email@example.com>
Sent: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 9:41 AM
Subject: RE: [BarnettShale_GassedNGastly] Methane Emissions From Gas Wells Up To 1,000 Times Higher Than Federal Estimate: Study
Should be presented tomorrow, specifically #2…
From: kim feil [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, April 15, 2014 10:13 PM
To: Chris Klaus
Subject: Re: [BarnettShale_GassedNGastly] Methane Emissions From Gas Wells Up To 1,000 Times Higher Than Federal Estimate: Study
I recall there was to be some planes fly over the Barnett Shale a few years ago and were to measure emissions and map them.
What ever became of those results?
Nov 16 2014 update the industry/EDF funded study was summarized in the Denver Post as follows….“One of the largest bottom-up studies was done by the University of Texas and the Environmental Defense Fund, a national environmental group.
The researchers measured methane emissions around the country on 190 natural gas sites, 150 production sites, 489 wells and 27 sites where wells were being hydrofractured, or fracked.
Hoods, covers and bags were placed over various pieces of equipment to catch and measure escaping methane.
The study was done with the cooperation of nine major oil companies, including Anadarko and Encana, Colorado’s second- and third- largest operators after Noble.
The study multiplied the measurements across all operations and estimated methane-escape rates lower than EPA’s inventory — primarily because of lower emissions from fracking operations.
But the escape rates for all the other sources — leaks, valves, pumps — were higher than EPA estimates.
“Bottom-up studies are telling us the sources of some emissions are higher than we thought,” said David Allen, the University of Texas professor who led the study.”
The study also indicated that a few operations produced a large share of the emissions.
“It is going to be a lot better to go after those facilities than try to change every valve” in an oil field, Allen said.