Fracking Impacts - Climate Chaos

Fugitive emission of methane, a potent greenhouse gas leaking out of gas wells, pipelines and compressor stations, may total over 10 percent of production making fracking worse than burning coal in terms of climate change, over a 20 year time scale. Continue reading

Methane Concentration In Atmosphere: Upturning In Late 2000s Co-incident With Expansion Of Fracking In US (Click To Enlarge)

Shale Drilling Restarts in the US, Causing Methane Emissions to Soar (, March 2021) According to new research, in recent months, the price of oil has increased again, spurring a pick-up in shale drilling in the US and pushing emissions back to pre-pandemic levels , with satellite data showing that Permian emissions in January rose to 190 000 tonnes, closer to their level from a year before

Permian site leaked gases uncontrollably for months, group says (Houston Chronicle, October 2020) In the latest example of mounting environmental concerns in the Permian Basin, where the extent of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry is largely unknown, an oil well site in the Permian Basin owned by a bankrupt shale producer has spewed polluting gases into the atmosphere for 10 months, despite being investigated by Texas regulators

In a Move That Could be Catastrophic for the Climate, Trump’s EPA Rolls Back Methane Regulations (Inside Climate News, September 2020) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a long-anticipated rollback of methane emission regulations for the oil and gas industry, weaken previous rules requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and fix points where methane—the second largest driver of human-made climate change after carbon dioxide—leaks from wells and other infrastructure

U.S. gas companies are abandoning their wells, leaving them to leak methane forever (Bloomberg, September 2020) Gas wells never really die, and over the years, the miles of steel piping and cement corrode, creating pathways for noxious gases to reach the surface, the most worrisome of these is methane, potent greenhouse gas, and despite more than 3.2 million deserted oil and gas wells in the U.S. there’s no regulatory requirement to monitor methane emissions from inactive wells, and until recently, scientists didn’t even consider wells in their estimates of greenhouse gas emissions

Global methane emissions soar to record high (Science Daily, July 2020) Global emissions of methane have reached the highest levels on record, with nearly 600 million tons added to the atmosphere in 2017 and more than half of all methane emissions now coming from human activities, increases are being driven primarily by growth of emissions from coal mining, oil and natural gas production, cattle and sheep ranching, and landfills

Super-Polluting Methane Emissions Twice Federal Estimates in Permian Basin, Study Finds (InsideClimate News, April 2020) A new study estimates 3.7 percent of all the methane produced from wells in the Permian basin is emitted, unburned, into the atmosphere which is more than twice the official EPA estimate for the region, and greater than the 3.2 percent limit at which natural gas becomes worse for the climate than burning coal.

Methane emitted by humans vastly underestimated, researchers find (, February 2020) A study by University of Rochester researchers measured methane levels in ancient air samples and found that scientists have been vastly underestimating the amount of methane humans are emitting into the atmosphere via fossil fuels, with almost all of the methane emitted to the atmosphere was biological in nature until about 1870, but manmade fossil emisisons since then are higher than expected by 25-40 percent, making reducing methane emissions from human activities like fossil fuel extraction more important

Natural gas is a much ‘dirtier’ energy source than we thought (National Geographic, February 2020) New research published in Nature suggests that natural geologic sources make up a much smaller fraction of the methane in today’s atmosphere, indicating we’ve underestimated the methane impacts of fossil fuel extraction by up to 40 percent, and that oil and gas production has had a larger impact on the greenhouse gas emissions than scientists thought

Gas Exports Have a Dirty Secret: A Carbon Footprint Rivaling Coal’s (Bloomberg, January 2020) The surge in U.S. gas production has incentivized the buildout of other fossil-fuel infrastructure, such as petrochemical plants and pipelines and if all of them are built, they could add more than 500 million tons of carbon emissions annually by 2030, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters, with emissions from 18 planned natural gas export terminals would negating the carbon savings of all U.S. coal plants retired in 2018

This So-Called Bridge Fuel ‘Leads to Hell’: Blowout at ExxonMobil Fracking Site Among Nation’s Worst-Ever Methane Leaks (Common Dreams, December 2019) A team of American and Dutch scientists studied satellite data and found that the Feb. 15, 2018 blowout at an Ohio natural gas well, which was hydraulically fractured or fracked before the incident, resulted in an “extreme” leakage of methane, one of the country’s largest-ever leaks of the potent greenhouse gas, with a methane emission rate of 120 ± 32 metric tons per hour – twice that of the widely reported Aliso Canyon event in California in 2015

It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible. (New York Times, December 2019) Immense amounts of methane are escaping from oil and gas sites nationwide, worsening global warming, even as the US government weakens restrictions on offenders and methane levels in the atmosphere have soared since 2007 with fracking natural-gas production, which accelerated just as atmospheric methane levels jumped a prime suspect

A Methane Leak, Seen From Space, Proves to Be Far Larger Than Thought (New York Times, December 2019) The first satellite designed to continuously monitor the planet for methane leaks made a startling discovery last year – a little known gas-well accident at an Ohio fracking site was in fact one of the largest methane leaks ever recorded in the United States, reinforcing the view that methane releases like these, which are difficult to predict, could be far more widespread than previously thought

Fracking boom tied to methane spike in Earth’s atmosphere (National Geographic, August 2019) Scientists have measured big increases in the amount of methane, the powerful global warming gas, entering the atmosphere over the last decade at the same time as the use of fracking for shale gas took off in the U.S, and new research points to emissions from fossil fuel production, mainly from shale gas operations in the United States and Canada, as the culprit

US oil and gas methane emissions 60 percent higher than estimated (ScienceDaily, June 2018) The US oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of the potent greenhouse gas methane from its operations each year, 60 percent more than estimated by the US Environmental Protection Agency, according to a new study, with most of the emissions coming from leaks, equipment malfunctions and other “abnormal” operating conditions and the climate impact of these leaks in 2015 was roughly the same as the climate impact of carbon dioxide emissions from all all U.S. coal-fired power plants operating in 2015

U.S. Methane Study Says Emissions 50 Percent Higher Than EPA Estimates (Huffington Post, November 2013) US is spewing 50 percent more methane — a potent heat-trapping gas — than the federal government estimates, a new comprehensive scientific study says, much of it is coming from oil and gas drilling areas

New Study Finds High Methane Emissions from Gas Drilling (Allegheny Front, August 2013) A new study has found “alarmingly high” levels of methane – between 6.2 and 11.7 percent – leaking out of tight gas wells, pipelines and compressor stations in Utah, making it worse than coal in terms of global warming over a 20-year time span

Concentration Of Methane Upwind (Blue) And Downwind (Red) Of The Unita Basin Gasfields In Utah Showing That The Field Is Leaking Large Amounts Of Gas (Click To Enlarge)

Methane leaks erode green credentials of natural gas (Nature, January 2013) Results from a field study in the Uinta Basin, Utah, suggest an eye-popping 9% of the total methane production, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking, double the cumulative loss rates estimated from industry data

Australian scientists find excess greenhouse gas near fracking (LA Times, November 2012) Researchers from Southern Cross University have detected excess greenhouse gas levels near the site of Australia’s biggest coal seam gas field, even higher than in Russia’s massive Siberian gas fields, where environmental protection has been minimal

US Shale Gas Drives Up Coal Exports (Science Daily, October 2012) A report by researchers at the University of Manchester has concluded that whilst the US is burning less coal, often attributed to shale gas production, millions of tonnes of unused coal are being exported to the UK, Europe and Asia

Shale gas ‘worse than coal’ for climate (BBC News, April 2011) The first comprehensive analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas, from Cornell University, shows it is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great as coal on a 20-year horizon, and is comparable over 100 years

Climate Benefits of Natural Gas May Be Overstated (Pro Publica, January 2011) Environmental Protection Agency estimates methane gas leaks from the hydraulic fracturing of shale gas are 9,000 times higher than previously reported, making shale as bad for the climate as coal over a 20 year time scale

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