The University of Texas at Austin is wrapping up the final stages of a new study that looks at how much methane is released during the drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Understanding how much methane is released is important to decreasing emissions overall, as methane is a known ‘greenhouse gas’ that contributes to climate change.
The research team and environmental research companies URS and Anodyne Research have been busy measuring methane emissions at natural gas production sites throughout the United States.
Dr. David Allen of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering led the study. “We are using a variety of different techniques, direct source measurements, directly measuring emissions at the point of origin, but also downwind of production,” he says. The study will aslo use data from nine participating natural gas producers.
Though natural gas burns cleaner than fossil fuels once its been produced, not a lot of research has been done about how much methane is released into the air during drilling and transportation with data drawn from the actual sites.
Three of the production sites Allen looked at are located in Texas. The Barnett, Eagle Ford and Haynesville fracking sites were all measured for methane emissions in the study, which began in May.
Funding for the research has been provided by the nine natural gas producers themselves, along with the Environmental Defense Fund. A UT spokesperson says that these production companies have been involved only to provide access to the testing sites and have not collected any of the data for the research.
Though Allen is 90 percent finished with his research, he wouldn’t mention any details of the preliminary results. The findings of Allen’s research will be reviewed by six academic experts and will be published in a peer-reviewed journal available to the public in January of next year.
Allen has consulted for gas industry groups in the past, and he sits on the Science Advisory Board for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). A press release by UT notes he has submitted a disclosure of outside interest to the university “in accordance with its conflict of interest policies.”