Study: O&G methane emissions in US are at least 15% higher than we thought

The Daily Climate discusses how oil and gas methane emissions in US are at least 15% higher than we thought. An unprecedented analysis from Pennsylvania uncovers flaws in national data.

Methane emissions are vastly undercounted at the state and national level because we’re missing accidental leaks from oil and gas wells, according to a new study.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that, when initially released, is about 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide at driving global warming (it doesn’t last as long in the atmosphere, however, so when averaged over a century methane is about 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide at driving global warming). Methane causes about 25 percent of human-driven climate change according to the Environmental Defense Fund, and the oil and gas industry is the leading emitter of methane. Last year, global atmospheric methane reached a 20-year high.

The new study, conducted by researchers at Cornell University and published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, looked at 589,175 operator reports on methane leaks from both fracking and conventional oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania from 2014-2018. The researchers found that methane emissions in the state are at least 15 percent higher than previously thought—and they believe a similar under-counting is happening at the national level.

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