New supplies of natural gas are no doubt changing our energy landscape and, of all fossil fuels, natural gas appears to be a smarter choice because its carbon footprint is smaller when combusted than coal or oil. When talking about natural gas as part of a potential climate solution, though, it is important to recognize its unique position as either being a good or bad thing for global warming – depending upon the amount of uncombusted methane emissions that are released into the atmosphere.
No matter what market forces dictate for the future of gas, it’s EDF’s job to ensure that natural gas doesn’t become a detriment to public health or the environment. And, with respect to air quality and climate, getting better data on methane emissions is essential.
Methane can be emitted at various points across the natural gas system. Comprised mostly of methane, natural gas is a potent greenhouse gas. When it enters the atmosphere unburned, it has a higher warming potential than carbon dioxide, the principal contributor of man-made climate change. The more gas released, the more it undermines the climate benefits of using natural gas as compared to other fossil fuels. Yet there is no clear sense of how much and from where methane is leaking out from the system, as my colleague and Chief Scientist Steven Hamburg has explained here.
Over the last year EDF has been orchestrating a large-scale study of methane emissions with leading researchers in the field and industry to better understand the amount of methane emissions across the natural gas supply chain. To date the 30-month collaborative effort, with a $10 million overall budget, is bringing together almost 20 universities and research facilities and about 40 industry partners, collectively, in order to measure methane directly at potentially large emissions sources as gas moves from the formation underground to the wellhead and then on to the consumer.
Yesterday, the third part of EDF’s methane research study was announced, which focuses on the local distribution of natural gas (from city gate to customer meter) Read More