Thursday, May 23, 2013

Methane and the environment: The EPA on shale gas production

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For years, the oil and gas field has been thinking that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would limit shale gas production due to harmful emissions. But recent developments have shown that heat-trapping emissions from the production of shale gas, like methane, are much less than what experts originally thought.

The EPA has released an annual report on greenhouse gas emissions, stating that greenhouse gas releases decreased by 1.6 percent from 2011 to 2012. The reduced emissions were attributed to fuel switching, tougher regulations, and better equipment. Warm weather and improvements in fuel efficiency of vehicles have also contributed to the decrease in such emissions.

Pie chart that shows different types of gases. 84 percent is from carbon dioxide fossil fuel use, deforestation, decay of biomass, etc. 10 percent is from methane. 4 percent is from nitrous oxide and 2 percent is from fluorinated gases.
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"The new EPA numbers show both that methane leakage was never as high as was previously thought, and that leaks are being reduced through better drilling practices,” Michael Shellenberger, president of California-based Breakthrough Institute, says.

The EPA’s focus is on methane gas since it is the most potent among all greenhouse gases. Fortunately, the amount of methane leaked into the atmosphere during a shale gas production has fallen, and the numbers continue to decline. Shellenberger affirmed this when he said that it’s reasonable to expect drilling possibilities to continue to improve, and that leakage rates will continue to go down.

“This should be treated as very good news by anyone concerned about climate change,” Shellenberger notes.

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