Greenhouse Gas Is Leaking Out of Barnett Shale Far More than Expected

Job-creators, and possible methane-emitters, in British Columbia.EXPAND
Job-creators, and possible methane-emitters, in British Columbia.
Province of British Columbia/Flickr

As many of you know, the Observer is a safe no-judgement zone, so we will not point any fingers of blame as to why methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking out of North Texas gas wells and associated facilities more than it was supposed to be leaking. In North Texas' Barnett Shale, natural gas production  is putting methane into the atmosphere at a rate that's 50 percent higher than what the EPA estimated, according to a new series of studies

The good news is that only a small amount of Barnett Shale drillers are responsible for all of that pollution, a mistake the researchers attribute to human error. But who's to say it's really even the drillers' fault at all? "Even in the areas where high emission rates were measured, the researchers said that they couldn’t tell where the emissions were coming from, only that they were in the vicinity of natural gas facilities," says Ed Ireland, the director of drilling lobbying group Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, in a statement. And even if those gas wells are responsible for the methane emissions, Ireland argues that "it is clear that the researchers found that the majority of the tests showed extremely low methane emission rates." That's a way of saying that while a lot of drillers might be polluting a little, only a few drillers are polluting a lot. 

Another oil lobbyist made a similar argument to the Texas Tribune, saying only a few really problem wells exists, and assuring us that the industry is already fixing the methane problem on its own. 

From the beginning, many people in the government, industry and academics argued that fracking would actually benefit the environment. Natural gas is much less dirty than coal when it burns, an assertion that the Environmental Protection Agency and our president stand by. 


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