Environmental Group Says Industry Could Do More to Cut Harmful Methane Leaks

  • Susan Phillips

Susan Phillips / StateImpactPA

A rig in Susquehanna County drills into the Marcellus Shale formation.

In the debate over how much “cleaner” natural gas is compared to coal, one of the factors up for discussion is how much methane gets released during the gas extraction process. Despite the fact that it burns cleaner than coal at power plants, methane leaks from wellhead to stove top can also serve as a destructive greenhouse gas. A report out Tuesday by the Natural Resources Defense Council says  the oil and gas industry could cut those leaky emissions by 80 percent. The NRDC says this would save them $2 billion a year.

“Right now, the oil and gas industry is letting pollution and profits evaporate into thin air, where they contribute to global warming, heart attacks and asthma,” said the NRDC’s Dan Lashof, in a press release. “We know how to stop those leaks to keep them from going to waste, threatening our health and harming our environment. It is shocking that industry has not put these measures into place when they’re profitable, available and effective – and will even save them money, all at the same time.”

The report details 10 technological improvements that could reduce methane emissions. The NRDC says one-third of all methane emissions result from the industry’s extraction, production and transmission process. A study by researchers at Cornell University last year, showed shale gas production released more methane than previously thought, and could actually be worse for climate change than coal-burning power plants. But the results of that study are controversial, and have been disputed by another set of Cornell researchers.

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