Overview

The issue of methane emissions is at the forefront of not only the oil and gas industry, but also environmental groups, research organizations, federal agencies, and the general public. According to the EPA, natural gas and petroleum systems are a large source of methane emissions, accounting for approximately 30% of total methane emissions within the U.S. The industry is under scrutiny to reduce emissions from all parts of the value chain and to ensure that natural gas continues to be seen as a safe, reliable, and environmentally preferred source of energy.

Why do we need it?

  • There are numerous studies from research organizations, academic institutions, federal and state agencies, and international organizations that focus on issues related to climate change and greenhouse (GHG) emissions from a domestic and global perspective, and exciting new scientific discoveries are occurring at an unprecedented rate.
  • With such a vast amount of information and data being released daily—some of which are contradictory—there is a need to understand how these studies relate and how the enormous amount of data can be leveraged to gain an improved understanding of atmospheric methane concentrations and its relationship to activities of the natural gas industry.
  • Assessing methane’s global warming impact is challenging. The following table shows two different metrics for comparing global warming impacts: the commonly used Global Warming Potential (GWP) and the lesser-known Global Temperature Potential (GTP). Some experts see the GTP metric as a more scientifically appropriate measure when comparing CO2 and greenhouses gases such as methane that have a relatively short atmospheric lifetime (e.g., 8-12 years). The discrepancy in metrics can lead to different conclusions regarding climate policy.
Global Warming Potential (GWP)Global Temperature Potential (GTP)
GWP20GWP100GTP20GTP100
Methane8428674

Source: Allen, M., “Short-Lived Promise? The Science and Policy of Cumulative and Short-Lived Climate Pollutants” (2015).

Methane-Research-Molecule_169x350

Carbon Dioxide and Methane Concentration Trends -

​Predictions of Carbon Dioxide concentrations have been consistent with observed trends. Predictions of Methane have substantially overstated observed trends.

Predictions of methane concentration increases have been consistently above observed trends. This significant discrepancy needs to be better understood such that appropriate figures are used in estimating the global warming impacts from natural gas operations.

Important questions need to be answered, such as: Are the differences between pre­dicted and measured methane concentra­tions a result of poor predictions, responsible practices and policies limiting the amount of methane emitted to the atmosphere, or something else?

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