Is natural gas really better for the climate? This may seem like a simple question. After all, natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. And data from the Energy Information Administration in April showed a downward trend in U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. A move many experts believe is largely attributed to the increased production of U.S. natural gas and the shift it has caused in the power sector – old, dirty coal plants being retired because new natural gas plants are more competitive.
But, this is only part of the story. Natural gas is comprised primarily of methane, and unburned methane is an incredibly potent greenhouse gas – 72 times more powerful than CO2 over the first two decades it is released.
The oil and gas industry is one of the largest domestic sources of methane, and while new gas reserves are being drilled every day, too little is known about how much and from where methane is leaking out from across the natural gas system. Lack of direct measurements has been a challenge, as EDF’s Chief Scientist Steven Hamburg explains here.
The need for better data to understand and control methane emissions in order to understand the true climate opportunity of natural gas led to EDF’s largest scientific research project. This effort currently involves about 85 academic, research and industry partners subdivided over five areas of the value chain (production, gathering and processing, transmission and storage, local distribution and transportation). Read More