Methane emissions from coalmines could stoke climate crisis

Methane emissions from coalmines could stoke climate crisis

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 15, 2019 SNIP: The methane emissions leaking from the world’s coalmines could be stoking the global climate crisis at the same rate as the shipping and aviation industries combined. Coalmines are belching millions of tonnes of methane into the atmosphere unchecked, because policymakers have overlooked the rising climate threat, according to new research. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimated that the amount of methane seeping from new and disused coalmines may have reached just under 40m tonnes last year. The potent greenhouse gas is a major concern among climate scientists because it has a far more powerful effect on global temperatures than carbon dioxide. The global energy watchdog estimates that one tonne of methane is the climate equivalent of 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide. This would put annual coalmine emissions broadly in line with the international aviation and shipping sectors combined. The IEA revealed its shock findings in the same report which found carbon emissions from the global energy industry had reached a new record in 2018. Methane is also known to escape from oil and gas wells, which has prompted calls for tougher regulation of the industry to reduce the climate impact. To date, coalmines have managed to avoid similar scrutiny because of a lack of data. The IEA said that methane leakage from coalmines would prove more difficult to tackle than the methane pollution from the oil and gas industry, and added it did not expect the situation to improve before...
It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.

It’s a Vast, Invisible Climate Menace. We Made It Visible.

SOURCE: New York Times DATE: November 8, 2019 SNIP: To the naked eye, there is nothing out of the ordinary at the DCP Pegasus gas processing plant in West Texas, one of the thousands of installations in the vast Permian Basin that have transformed America into the largest oil and gas producer in the world. But a highly specialized camera sees what the human eye cannot: a major release of methane, the main component of natural gas and a potent greenhouse gas that is helping to warm the planet at an alarming rate. Two New York Times journalists detected this from a tiny plane, crammed with scientific equipment, circling above the oil and gas sites that dot the Permian, an oil field bigger than Kansas. In just a few hours, the plane’s instruments identified six sites with unusually high methane emissions. Methane is loosely regulated, difficult to detect and rising sharply. The Times’s aerial and on-the-ground research, along with an examination of lobbying activities by the companies that own the sites, shows how the energy industry is seeking and winning looser federal regulations on methane, a major contributor to global warming. Operators of the sites identified by The Times are among the very companies that have lobbied the Trump administration, either directly or through trade organizations, to weaken regulations on methane, a review of regulatory filings, meeting minutes and attendance logs shows. These local companies, along with oil-industry lobby groups that represent the world’s largest energy companies, are fighting rules that would force them to more aggressively fix emissions like these. Next year, the administration could move forward with...
Subsea permafrost thaws faster than previously thought, Russian scientists say

Subsea permafrost thaws faster than previously thought, Russian scientists say

SOURCE: The Siberian Times DATE: October 28, 2019 SNIP: Unexpectedly high level of subsea permafrost degradation was recorded by a Russian-led scientific expedition that spent more than a month in the seas of the eastern Arctic. A record high methane gas emission in a shape of an underwater ‘fountain’ was registered at the beginning of October east of Bennett island in the East Siberian Sea. ‘It was a needle in a haystack chase, to find an exact place of a methane seep in dark sea waters, but we found it! ‘Just right off the Academician Keldysh scientists noticed a spot of emerald-coloured water, with gas rushing to surface in thousands of bubble threads’, said expedition member Sergey Nikiforov, a communications experts of the Tomsk Politechnical University. The area of the fountain covered about five metres, with water ‘so violently boiling with methane bubbles’ that scientists skipped using plastic cones for sampling and instead collected the gas in buckets. Unexpectedly high speed of degradation of subsea permafrost has been recorded. ‘In some areas the roof of subsea permafrost thawed to the stability horizons of gas hydrates. Moreover, it has been proved that over the past 30 years speed of vertical degradation of subsea permafrost doubled compared to previous centuries and reached 18 centimetres per year which is significantly higher than in earlier estimates‘, said professor Semiletov. ‘This result makes us reconsider the belief that subsea permafrost is stable and can only thaw by a few metres by the end of 21st century’, he stressed. Elena Kudryashova, rector of Northern Federal University, Arkhangelsk: ‘Another important subject of our research was study...
‘Extraordinarily Harmful’: In Disaster for Planet and Gift to Industry, New Trump Rule Would Gut Restrictions on Potent Methane Emissions

‘Extraordinarily Harmful’: In Disaster for Planet and Gift to Industry, New Trump Rule Would Gut Restrictions on Potent Methane Emissions

SOURCE: Common Dreams DATE: August 29, 2019 SNIP: Amid dire scientific warnings that the international community must act immediately to slash greenhouse gas emissions, President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency is reportedly set to take another step in the opposite direction Thursday by unveiling a rule that would gut restrictions on the fossil fuel industry’s methane pollution. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the proposed rule change Thursday, the EPA’s plan would scrap regulations requiring the oil and gas industry to “install technologies that monitor and limit leaks from new wells, tanks and pipeline networks and to more frequently inspect for leaks.” “It would also forestall legal requirements that would have forced the EPA to set rules on emissions from thousands of pre-existing wells and industry sites,” the Journal reported. The Trump administration expects the rule, which must go through a 60-day public comment period, to take effect early next year. The rollback was immediately praised by the American Petroleum Institute, a major trade group representing the fossil fuel industry. Because of methane’s potency—some estimates suggest the greenhouse gas has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide—environmentalists and scientists have warned the Trump administration’s efforts to gut methane regulations could have disastrous consequences. Trump administration officials, and the president himself, have gleefully touted the White House’s success in ramping up American production of methane-emitting natural gas, which Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy Steven Winberg infamously described as “molecules of U.S....
Major U.S. cities are leaking methane at twice the rate previously believed

Major U.S. cities are leaking methane at twice the rate previously believed

SOURCE: Science DATE: July 19, 2019 SNIP: Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner burning alternative to coal, has a leakage problem. A new study has found that leaks of methane, the main ingredient in natural gas and itself a potent greenhouse gas, are twice as big as official tallies suggest in major cities along the U.S. eastern seaboard. The study suggests many of these fugitive leaks come from homes and businesses—and could represent a far bigger problem than leaks from the industrial extraction of the fossil fuel itself. When burned for heat or power, methane emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) than fossil fuels such as coal. But when leaked directly into the atmosphere, its warming effect can be dozens of times stronger than CO2, depending on the time scale over which the warming is measured. The new findings come courtesy of data gathered by aircraft over six U.S. cities: Washington, D.C.; Baltimore, Maryland; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; New York City; Providence; and Boston. In 2018, researchers flew at altitudes between 300 and 800 meters and measured concentrations of methane, ethane, CO2, and carbon monoxide, among other gases. The ethane measurements were clues to likely sources of the methane leaks, says Eric Kort, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and co-author of the new study. The team’s analyses suggest the five biggest urban areas studied—which together include about 12% of the nation’s population—emit about 890,000 tons of methane each year, the researchers report this week in Geophysical Research Letters. The vast majority of that, at least 750,000 tons, comes from methane leaks from homes, businesses, and...