• By The Financial District

Oil, Gas Companies Underreporting Methane Emissions: Scientists

As serious as the methane escaping from ruptured pipelines on the floor of the Baltic Sea may be, there are alarming incidents of massive methane releases around the world frequently, Cathy Bussewitz reported for the Associated Press (AP).


Photo Insert: Globally, Turkmenistan is among the worst offenders for releasing methane into the atmosphere, while Saudi Arabia is among the best at capturing it based on satellite observations.



Scientists measuring methane from satellites in space have found that methane emissions from oil and gas operations are usually at least twice what companies reported, said Thomas Lauvaux, a scientist at the University of Reims in France.


In Permian Basin, the largest oil and gas field in the United States, methane emissions were two to three times higher than what companies reported, he said. “Everybody claims they have reduced their emissions, but it’s not true,” Lauvaux added.



Governments around the world, especially in the US, are also notorious for underestimating how much methane escapes into the air, said Cornell University ecology and biology professor Robert Howarth, who studies natural gas emissions, Patrick Whittle and Seth Borenstein also reported for AP.


In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses voluntary self-reporting from industry, instead of independent verification, which is what’s needed, Howarth said.


All the news: Business man in suit and tie smiling and reading a newspaper near the financial district.

Globally, Turkmenistan is among the worst offenders for releasing methane into the atmosphere, while Saudi Arabia is among the best at capturing it based on satellite observations, Lauvaux said.


The US falls somewhere in the middle, with some firms capturing methane pretty well and others performing terribly.


Business: Business men in suite and tie in a work meeting in the office located in the financial district.

Lauvaux and other scientists have observed more than 1,500 major methane leaks globally, and potentially tens of thousands of smaller leaks, using satellites, he said.


Most of the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions come from pipelines and compressor stations, according to Kayrros, a company that analyzes satellite data, Christina Larson reported for AP.


Science & technology: Scientist using a microscope in laboratory in the financial district.

David Archer, a professor in the geophysical sciences department at the University of Chicago who focuses on the global carbon cycle says he thinks much of the methane that has escaped from the Baltic Sea pipelines dissolved in the water. The leak is dramatic, but it doesn’t compare to the daily impact of methane emitters such as agricultural operations, Archer said.


The amounts “from oil wells and cattle are much larger, just harder to visualize. If the explosion in the Baltic looks large, it’s because it’s concentrated,” he said.



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