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US study says methane fracking emissions half of EPA estimates

12 June 2012

Greenhouse gas emissions from certain natural gas production activities are up to 86% lower than estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to a study released today from URS Corp. and The LEVON Group. The study, sponsored by America's Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) and the American Petroleum Institute (API).

An industry study claims that greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production are as much as 50% lower than figures used by EPA
An industry study claims that greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production are as much as 50% lower than figures used by EPA

The study takes the most comprehensive look at the issue to date, ANGA says, analysing data from nearly 20% of all US natural gas-producing wells-a sample size more than 10 times larger than EPA's.

"The EPA has been upfront that its data is limited in scope. This study confirms that EPA's estimates on emissions from operations are vastly exaggerated," said Tom Amontree, Executive Vice President at America's Natural Gas Alliance. "As our nation strives to move toward a cleaner energy future, natural gas is an essential tool that is already resulting in substantial real-world progress. It is our hope that all stakeholders who aim for credible, science-based decision making and dialogue will take note of these findings and more fully consider the vast potential of this cleaner American energy source."

Specifically, the study found that methane emissions from natural gas operations such as liquids unloading (a technique used to remove water and other liquids from the wellbore to improve the flow of natural gas) are 86% lower than EPA estimated. In addition, the study shows that methane emissions from refractured wells (a technique used to prolong production of an existing gas-producing well) are 72% lower than EPA estimates. Overall, the study finds that greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas production are as much as 50% lower than figures used by EPA.

The study's findings are based on an analysis of data from more than 91,000 U.S. natural gas wells operated across diverse geographic areas by more than 20 companies. The data set represents nearly one-fifth (approximately 18.8%) of US wells. The survey was undertaken after EPA, in 2011, introduced new calculation methods for estimating the amount of methane emissions from natural gas operations.

"For both power generation and transportation, natural gas is a far cleaner alternative," Amontree said. "This study confirms for policymakers and the public that the production process does not negate those benefits. Equally important, natural gas companies are continually striving to further reduce their environmental impact."




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