Science & Technology

Methane Emissions From Oil and Natural Gas Production Higher Than Previously Thought

Oil and Gas Well Pump Sunset

The Environmental Safety Company (EPA) is underestimating methane emissions from oil and gasoline manufacturing in its annual Stock of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks, in accordance with new analysis from the Harvard John A. Paulson College of Engineering and Utilized Sciences (SEAS). The analysis group discovered 90 p.c increased emissions from oil manufacturing and 50 p.c increased emissions for pure gasoline manufacturing than EPA estimated in its newest stock. 

The paper is revealed within the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

The analysis group, led by Joannes Maasakkers, a former graduate pupil at SEAS, developed a technique to hint and map whole emissions from satellite tv for pc knowledge to their supply on the bottom.

“That is the primary country-wide analysis of the emissions that the EPA experiences to the United Nations Framework Conference on Local weather Change (UNFCCC),” stated Maasakkers, who’s at present a scientist on the SRON Netherlands Institute for Area Analysis.

At present, the EPA solely experiences whole nationwide emissions to the UNFCC. In earlier analysis, Maasakkers and his collaborators, together with Daniel Jacob, the Vasco McCoy Household Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry and Environmental Engineering at SEAS, labored with the EPA to map regional emissions of methane from totally different sources within the US. That stage of element was used to simulate how methane strikes by the ambiance.

On this paper, the researchers in contrast these simulations to satellite tv for pc observations from 2010-2015. Utilizing a transport mannequin, they have been in a position to hint the trail of emissions from the ambiance again to the bottom and determine areas throughout the US the place the observations and simulations didn’t match up. 

“Once we take a look at emissions from area, we are able to solely see how whole emissions from an space must be scaled up or down, however we don’t know the supply accountable for these emissions,” stated Maasakkers. “As a result of we spent a lot time with the EPA determining the place these totally different emissions happen, we might use our transport mannequin to return and work out what sources are accountable for these under- or over-estimations within the nationwide whole.”

The largest discrepancy was in emissions from oil and pure gasoline manufacturing.

The EPA calculates emission primarily based on processes and gear. For instance, the EPA estimates {that a} gasoline pump emits a certain quantity of methane, multiplies that by what number of pumps are working throughout the nation, and estimates whole emissions from gasoline pumps.

Methane emissions from the oil/gasoline sector within the contiguous US in 2012. The determine exhibits the unique EPA estimates for 2012 and the outcomes from the SEAS analysis. Credit score: Harvard John A. Paulson College of Engineering and Utilized Sciences

“That methodology makes it actually exhausting to get estimates for particular person amenities as a result of it’s exhausting to take note of each doable supply of emission,” stated Maasakkers. “We all know {that a} comparatively small variety of amenities make up many of the emissions and so there are clearly amenities which might be producing extra emissions than we might count on from these general estimates.”

The researchers hope that future work will present extra readability on precisely the place these emissions are coming from and how they’re altering.

“We plan to proceed to observe U.S. emissions of methane utilizing new high-resolution satellite tv for pc observations, and to work with the EPA to enhance emission inventories,” stated Jacob.

“It’s necessary to grasp these emissions higher however we shouldn’t wait till we totally perceive these emissions to begin making an attempt to scale back them,” stated Maasakkers. “There are already a variety of issues that we all know we are able to do to scale back emissions.”

Reference: “2010–2015 North American methane emissions, sectoral contributions, and developments: a high-resolution inversion of GOSAT observations of atmospheric methane” by Joannes D. Maasakkers, Daniel J. Jacob, Melissa P. Sulprizio, Tia R. Scarpelli, Hannah Nesser, Jianxiong Sheng, Yuzhong Zhang, Xiao Lu, A. Anthony Bloom, Kevin W. Bowman, John R. Worden and Robert J. Parker, 22 March 2021, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

This paper was co-authored by Daniel Jacob, Melissa Sulprizio, Tia R. Scarpelli, Hannah Nesser, Jianxiong Sheng, Yuzhong Zhang, Xiao Lu, A. Anthony Bloom, Kevin Bowman, John Worden, and Robert Parker.

The analysis was funded by the NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) program.

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