The country’s biggest methane “hot spot,” verified by NASA and University of Michigan scientists in October, is only the most dramatic example of what scientists describe as a $2 billion leak problem: the loss of methane from energy production sites across the country. When oil, gas or coal are taken from the ground, a little methane — the main ingredient in natural gas — often escapes along with it, drifting into the atmosphere, where it contributes to the warming of the Earth.
Methane accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and the biggest single source of it — nearly 30 percent — is the oil and gas industry, government figures show. All told, oil and gas producers lose 8 million metric tons of methane a year, enough to provide power to every household in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
Well, I guess the oil and gas companies have a big reason for not telling anyone about it. Good thing we have NASA and the U of M scientists. Not going to hold my breath to find out what Congress will do about it or any other countries governments.
Methane (CH4) is a potent greenhouse gas and ozone precursor. Quantifying methane emissions is critical for projecting and mitigating changes to climate and air quality. Here we present CH4 observations made from space combined with Earth-based remote sensing column measurements. Results indicate the largest anomalous CH4 levels viewable from space over the conterminous U.S. are located at the Four Corners region in the Southwest U.S. Emissions exceeding inventory estimates, totaling 0.59 Tg CH4/yr [0.50–0.67; 2σ], are necessary to bring high-resolution simulations and observations into agreement. This underestimated source approaches 10% of the EPA estimate of total U.S. CH4 emissions from natural gas. The persistence of this CH4 signal from 2003 onward indicates that the source is likely from established gas, coal, and coalbed methane mining and processing. This work demonstrates that space-based observations can identify anomalous CH4 emission source regions and quantify their emissions with the use of a transport model.