The gathering, processing, transmission, and storage phases of natural gas production emit more methane than previously believed, with a small minority of producers accounting for a disproportionate share of the impact, according to two studies in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
“Measurements from both of the studies show that equipment leaks are an important source of emissions that can be addressed,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) reports on The Energy Collective. “All of these findings suggest that equipment leaks are an important source of emission and that strong, comprehensive leak detection and repair requirements could help to find and fix these leaks.”
The gathering and processing study found that 20% of the facilities in the sample were venting methane at four times the average rate of the other plants. “At some of these sites with substantial emissions, the authors found that company representatives made adjustments resulting in immediate reductions in emissions,” Zalzal writes.
“Researchers found that processing plants leaked at much lower rates than gathering facilities, attributing this discrepancy in part to regulations requiring comprehensive leak detection and repair at processing plants.”
Across the facilities in the sample, “data suggests the natural gas emitted was worth about $25 million and had a 20-year climate impact equal to the emissions of two million passenger vehicles.”