Methane leakage

This is an archived article that was published on in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

For years, scientists and governments were relying on the conversion of coal-fired power plants to natural gas as one way to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere.

Given the potency of methane (the chief constituent of natural gas) as a greenhouse gas, an underlying assumption was that the amount of natural gas that escaped from gas fields would not exceed 3.2 percent. In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that approximately 2.4 percent of our total gas production escaped by leakage.

In 2012, that assumption was challenged. A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado in Boulder found that up to 4 percent of methane was escaping from a field near Denver. New data from Colorado has confirmed that loss.

Meanwhile, in Utah, preliminary field studies have estimated a whopping 9 percent of the total production is lost into our increasingly crowded atmosphere. The study must be repeated and more research is needed to put together the larger picture; however, leakage, of any amount, is something we must rectify.

William White

Salt Lake City