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The development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has enabled a boom in the production of shale gas in the US. Supporters of the fuel make boasts about its cheap and abundant nature, whilst also claiming that it is good for the environment as it is a low carbon fuel compared to other fossil fuels.
The problem is that there are other side effects to natural gas usage that could actually negate the environmental benefits of its low carbon nature.
The main problem is that natural gas is mostly made up of methane, which is incredibly damaging to the environment, and little gas leaks that occur at every stage of the extraction, transportation, and processing phases, ultimately accumulate to pose a real problem, that over time could negate any environmental benefits.
Related article: Shale, Gales, and Tipping the Scales
Methane is considered to be 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas, and whilst methane only represents about 10-12% of all US greenhouse gas emissions, the potency makes it a far more important issue, and one that must be addressed.
Fears exist that increasing the usage of natural gas around the country, such as switching cars and trucks from gasoline and diesel to natural gas, could create far more instances where natural gas can leak into the atmosphere. Methane makes up about 83% of shale gas when it is first extracted from the ground, but after processing that increases to 90%.
The World Resources Institute has made several recommendations that companies can use to reduce methane emissions from their shale operations.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com