The general public may be only be familiar with carbon-dioxide [CO2] as a greenhouse gas [GHG], but GHGs include many more gases, including naturally occurring water vapor [H2O], ozone [O3], nitrous oxide [N2O], and methane [CH4].
While naturally occurring in small amounts, methane is being released on an unknown scale as a by-product of natural gas extraction and refining, but because it occurs in its natural form as a gas, it has been very difficult to measure.
Methane has about 25 times more global warming potential than CO2, which makes it a potent force in global warming. A new study, performed by University of Texas at Austin [UTA], set to conclude in January 2013, could be critically important to understanding methane emissions during production, refining, and transport.
The study will focus on a number of participating companies, including hydraulic fracturing wells, to determine the amount of methane emissions. The Environmental Defense Fund [EDF], Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, BG Group plc, Chevron, Encana Oil & Gas Inc., Pioneer Natural Resources Company, Shell, Southwestern Energy, Talisman Energy, and XTO Energy, are cooperating to get this data into the study where it can do the most good.
David Allen, the principal investigator of the study and director of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s Center for Energy and Environmental Resources, says, “Through the data our research team collects from wells and facilities in the nation’s major shale producing areas and the data we receive from the nine participating natural gas producers, we hope to bring hard, scientific findings to an environmental issue that is still not well understood.”
The study, which runs from May 2012 through January 2013, may have a significant impact on future methane emissions regulations. The final results will be made publicly available after the independent scientific panel verifies the study’s findings.