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Question

What are most recent, credible studies on methane emissions from natural gas and LNG?

There has been growing debate over the question of whether natural gas and LNG are "better" than coal in terms of their GHG profiles. This debate has been sparked by a couple of studies which seem hgihly dubious in their methodology -- the most notorious being the Robert Howarth study. That one was savaged by his own colleagues at Cornell University.

I have read one more recent study (based on Permian Basin snapshots) that puts the average methane intensity for natural gas in the U.S. at 1.7%, which is about half what the IEA states it needs to be to put natural gas on par with coal (3%).

In British Columbia, the methane emissions rate for natural gas production is said by the provincial government to be very low -- 0.3%. One study funded by the David Suzuki Foundation (again, the methodology was highly questionable in that study) estimated methane emissions in B.C. could be 2.5 times higher than the government and industry estimates. Even if that's true, that still puts it at only 0.7% -- well below the 3% threshold esttablished by the EIA.

I'd like to stay on top of this issue, so if anyone can point to studies done by credible academics with actual expertise in GHG life cycle analysis that deal with this question, I'd appreciate if you could point it out. I'm starting to collect these studies and keep them in a Flipboard magazine for easy reference.

Thanks in advance for any pointers.

Answers

Here you go Nelson. Key takeaways:

• Methane leakage is estimated to be 2.3% of production, suggesting it's been grossly underestimated in prior studies
• Methane's impact on global warming, for the first 20 years, is approximately 80x that of CO2
• With leakage included, the climate impact of natural gas electricity generation is 40% worse than coal

A deal-breaker for both gas-fired electricity, and the "renewable" energy which depends on it.


 

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