Small Plane

A new study analyzing data from flyovers of wellpads in the Marcellus Shale reports high methane levels around several pads in drilling stages not thought to produce high emissions 

More Methane Than Expected

April 18, 2014

Small Plane

A new study analyzing data from flyovers of wellpads in the Marcellus Shale reports high methane levels around several pads in drilling stages not thought to produce high emissions.  Funding from the Atkinson Center Academic Venture Fund contributed to the research. The findings from the "top-down" study (air-to-ground) are a concern because methane contributes to global warming, say the authors, who caution that more study is needed. The research was based on a small number of flights and limited data collection. Faculty Fellows Jed Sparks (EEB), Robert Howarth (EEB), and Tony Ingraffea (CEE) contributed to this study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)

We identified a significant regional flux of methane over a large area of shale gas wells in southwestern Pennsylvania in the Marcellus formation and further identified several pads with high methane emissions. These shale gas pads were identified as in the drilling process, a preproduction stage not previously associated with high methane emissions. This work emphasizes the need for top-down identification and component level and event driven measurements of methane leaks to properly inventory the combined methane emissions of natural gas extraction and combustion to better define the impacts of our nation’s increasing reliance on natural gas to meet our energy needs.

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