Uinta Basin gas leakage far worse than most believe, New study says up to 12% of basin’s methane leaks; EPA estimated on average nationally that 0.8 to 1.6% of natural gas leaks

In a Utah Gas Field, Potent Quantities of Greenhouse Gas Rise into Atmosphere, A new study reveals that Utah’s lax laws have led to large leaks of natural gas by Stephanie Paige Ogburn and ClimateWire, August 7, 2013, Scientific American

A methane problem in Utah by Zain Shauk, August 5, 2013, Houston Chronicle
Almost a tenth of the methane produced from oil and gas operations in a Utah site escapes into the atmosphere, according to a federally backed study published Monday.

Uinta Basin gas leakage far worse than most believe, New study says up to 12 percent of basin’s methane escapes by Brian Maffly, August 5, 2013, The Salt Lake Tribune
Between 6 percent and 12 percent of the Uinta Basin’s natural gas production could be escaping into the atmosphere, far more than commonly estimated, according to a new study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. These troubling findings emerged during experiments conducted in February 2012 to validate a new method for calculating how much methane is released from oil and gas fields. “The point of the paper was to show that we have a robust method for verifying emissions,” said co-author Colm Sweeney, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado. “The method we’re going after is what is the actual impact to the atmosphere, rather than guesses based on discrete measurements from a few wells.” Accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the study was conducted by the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, which Colorado runs jointly with [NOAA] http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/” target=”_blank”>NOAA in Boulder. … The team flew over the basin at about 1,000 feet gathering air samples and readings over several weeks. “We used a mass balance technique, which means we follow an air mass as it moves into the region and then flows out,” Sweeney said. “We look at the difference in methane between those two to determine an actual emissions rate for the region.” …

The basin’s oil and gas infrastructure serves 6,000 wells that account for 1 percent of the nation’s natural gas production. The team found it leaked 60 tons of natural gas an hour during the Feb. 3 window. “Most days we measured concentrations far greater than what we reported in the paper,” Sweeney said. The new study was not designed to determine points of leakage. There are plenty of potential leak sources, such as wells, processing plants, compressors and pipelines.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that, on average nationally, just 0.8 percent to 1.6 percent of natural gas production escapes. … Methane, the main component of natural gas, packs a greenhouse punch 25 times greater than carbon dioxide. That means leakage rates exceeding 3.2 percent offset natural gas’ advantage in the short term, Sweeney said. … “The industry has led efforts to reduce emissions of methane by developing new technologies and equipment, and these efforts are paying off,” spokesman Brian Straessle said in an email. [Emphasis added]

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