One of the central tenets of anti-shale gas activists—claims that carbon pollution from methane leaked during the hydraulic fracturing extraction process makes natural gas more polluting than coal—took another, likely fatal, hit this week.
A University of Texas-Austin study released Monday found that methane emissions from new wells being prepared for production, a process known as completion, captured 99% of the escaping methane—on average 97% lower than estimates released in 2011 by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is the most comprehensive shale gas emissions study ever undertaken on methane leakage, covering 190 well pads around the United States. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, so leaks could theoretically wipe out the documented climate benefits with respect to reduced carbon emissions of natural gas, a comparatively clean fossil fuel.
Energy experts and environmentalists celebrated the finding that almost all the escaping methane could be captured by state of the art equipment. “Can we control it? Thanks to new EPA regulations coming online, the answer to that is good news,” Eric Pooley, a senior vice president at the Environmental Defense Fund, told the New York Times.
“We were surprised at that finding, yes,” I was told by Steven Hamburg, chief scientist for the EDF , who coordinated the study, one of 16 studies EDF is overseeing and expects to be released over the next 15 months.
But critics were on hand to respond to the findings. More at Forbes -