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Study: Greenhouse gas emissions from industry concentrated in two sources

A snow covered well site at night.

A snow covered well site at night in the Tioga State Forest.

The Environmental Protection Agency says oil and natural gas production is the largest industrial source of methane emissions in the U.S. Methane is 84 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term.  So climate scientists and activists are starting to focus more and more on reducing methane. And they say natural gas production sites are an easy place to start.
A new peer-reviewed study out Tuesday in the Environmental Science and Technology journal says two parts of the production process should be targeted for reduced methane emissions. Researchers from the University of Texas and the environmental firm URS concluded that pneumatic devices and liquid unloadings pose the most risk to fugitive methane. And just a small percentage of each device tested account for the bulk of emissions.
Pneumatic devices use natural gas to control valves. Researchers found that just 19 percent of the 377 devices tested accounted for 95 percent of the total measured emissions. Similarly with liquid unloadings, where most of those operations do not vent methane to the atmosphere, according to the report. Instead just 20 percent of 107 natural gas well liquid unloading events tested made up 65 to 83 percent of the emissions. Liquid unloadings refers to a process, usually in older wells, where accumulated liquids have to be cleared in order to continue producing gas.
The report was funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, along with ten oil and gas producers.

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