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Study Finds Shale Gas is not as Clean as Thought

By Joao Peixe | Fri, 04 January 2013 22:26 | 2

Last February scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, released the findings of a study that claimed that around four percent of methane was escaping into the atmosphere as natural gas was being extracted from a field in Denver.

Now that same group has studied the gas production techniques of a field in Utah and discovered that around nine percent of the methane gas extracted at the gas field was leaking into the air. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases, far more so than CO2, and its escape during the production process of the natural gas now challenges the claims that burning natural gas produces far fewer emissions and is better for the environment than coal.

The shale boom has led to a huge increase in natural gas production and as prices have fallen significantly many utilities have been converting their coal power plants to run on cheap gas. The gas industry has claimed that this transition has helped cut US greenhouse gas emissions across the country because gas releases far fewer carbon emissions than coal.

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It turns out that whilst burning the gas is cleaner than coal, the extraction process releases large amounts of dangerous greenhouse gases.

Whilst the NOAA and University of Colorado only looked at isolated cases, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests 2.4% of total natural gas production was lost due to leakage in 2009.

BusinessGreen.com wrote: “NOAA scientists and industry partners are now analysing emissions from the production, gathering, processing, long-distance transmission and local distribution of natural gas, as well as collecting field data from across the US, and are expected to submit an initial study for publication by next month.”

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com

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  • Mike on January 07 2013 said:
    Please define "leakage." I met a policy maker from Washington D.C. at a conference who thinks gas is just leaking from the ground all over the place as a result of fracking - which is absolutely not true and completely absurd. The "leakage" is actually vent gas from flowback (a temporary, controlled, yet mandatory process), or from produced water tanks (which almost every well in the world has). Leakage is probably the most inaccurate way to describe what is actually happening and another way environmentalists are causing mass hysteria with false verbiage.
  • j lodes on January 05 2013 said:
    Is it not true that the extraction of coal also releases methane? Is it more or less per ton of coal (or some equivalent to gas such as BTU) than the percentages cited in this article?

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