Fracking produces methane gas. Methane gas is the main ingredient of natural gas, and most of it is syphoned off and sold as natural gas on the market. However, at every stage of the fracking process; from the extraction at the wells, to the processing plants, and then in the pipes that supply consumers houses, methane is leaking.
A new study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) has suggested that these multiple leaks of methane could in fact be the largest climate impact in the whole fracking industry, and be worth around $1.5 billion a year.
Luckily solving this problem is as easy as fixing the leaks, there isn’t any need for an expensive new technology; but unfortunately there are several problems that prevent this from happening. A previous WRI study found that fixing methane leaks would be the single biggest move that the US could make in its struggle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The main problem is the lack of incentive for pipe owners to try and fix the leaks. The EPA is not required to directly regulate methane emissions, and without that legal cap on such emissions, few people are going to spend money trying to reduce them.
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Another problem that reduces motivation to actively repair leaks, is the fact that the owners of the pipes don’t actually own the gas that travels within, so they would receive no benefit from spending on repairs.
Then there is the fact that methane is colourless and mostly odourless, meaning that leaks are incredibly difficult to detect without special sensory equipment which few companies invest in.
WRI analyst James Bradbury says has said that the EPA must step in to address the situation. “We need to be focused on solutions and not take a wait-and-see approach. You want to get these rules in place at the front end; we're already playing catch-up.”
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com