‘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...
Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal

Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: July 2, 2019 SNIP: The booming liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry will play at least as big a role as new coal investments in bringing on a climate crisis if all planned projects go ahead, US-based energy analysts and campaigners say. The Global Energy Monitor, formerly known as CoalSwarm, is a US-based research and advocacy group that tracks fossil fuel development. It found there were US$1.3tn in planned LNG investments across the globe, including nearly $38bn in Australia, putting it fourth on a list behind the US, Canada and Russia. Ted Nace, the group’s executive director, said the proposed tripling of global LNG capacity risked introducing decades of emissions of methane, a potent and difficult-to-monitor greenhouse gas, at odds with the Paris climate agreement. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year estimated methane emissions would need to be reduced by 35% between 2010 and 2050 to meet the Paris goals. Natural gas is at times described as a transition fuel in the response to the climate crisis as it has about half the carbon dioxide emissions of black coal when burned to generate electricity. That argument has been rejected by the head of the International Energy Agency and science bodies warning the world needs to rapidly move to clean energy and industries. Nace said it was difficult to compare emissions from coal and gas given their different nature. Gas has lower CO2 emissions than black coal when burned for electricity, but LNG developments also leak methane, which is a relatively short-lived gas that lasts in the atmosphere about 12 years but still has a...
Fertilizer plants emit 100 times more methane than reported

Fertilizer plants emit 100 times more methane than reported

SOURCE: EurekAlert! DATE: June 6, 2019 SNIP: Emissions of methane from the industrial sector have been vastly underestimated, researchers from Cornell University and Environmental Defense Fund have found. Using a Google Street View car equipped with a high-precision methane sensor, the researchers discovered that methane emissions from ammonia fertilizer plants were 100 times higher than the fertilizer industry’s self-reported estimate. They also were substantially higher than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate for all industrial processes in the United States. The use of natural gas has grown in recent years, bolstered by improved efficiency in shale gas extraction and the perception that natural gas is a less dirty fossil fuel. “But natural gas is largely methane, which molecule-per-molecule has a stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide,” Albertson said. “The presence of substantial emissions or leaks anywhere along the supply chain could make natural gas a more significant contributor to climate change than previously thought.” To evaluate methane emissions from downstream industrial sources, the researchers focused on the fertilizer industry, which uses natural gas both as the fuel and one of the main ingredients for ammonia and urea products. Ammonia fertilizer is produced at only a couple dozen plants in the U.S.; factories are often located near public roadways, where emissions carried downwind can be detected – in this case by mobile sensors. For this study, the Google Street View vehicle traveled public roads near six representative fertilizer plants in the country’s midsection to quantify “fugitive methane emissions” – defined as inadvertent losses of methane to the atmosphere, likely due to incomplete chemical reactions during fertilizer production, incomplete fuel...
The Methane Detectives: On the Trail of a Global Warming Mystery

The Methane Detectives: On the Trail of a Global Warming Mystery

SOURCE: Undark DATE: May 13, 2019 SNIP: Every week, dozens of metal flasks arrive at NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, each one loaded with air from a distant corner of the world. Research chemist Ed Dlugokencky and his colleagues in the Global Monitoring Division catalog the canisters, and then use a series of high-precision tools — a gas chromatograph, a flame ionization detector, sophisticated software — to measure how much carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane each flask contains. The air in the flasks shows that the concentration of methane in the atmosphere had been steadily rising since 1983, before levelling off around 2000. “And then, boom, look at how it changes here,” Dlugokencky says, pointing at a graph on his computer screen. “This is really an abrupt change in the global methane budget, starting around 2007.” The amount of methane in the atmosphere has been increasing ever since. And nobody really knows why. What’s more, no one saw it coming. Methane levels have been climbing more steeply than climate experts anticipated, to a degree “so unexpected that it was not considered in pathway models preparatory to the Paris Agreement,” as Dlugokencky and several co-authors noted in a recently published paper. As the years plod on and the methane piles up, solving this mystery has taken on increasing urgency. Over a 20-year-time frame, methane traps 86 times as much heat in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. It is responsible for about a quarter of total atmospheric warming to date. And while the steady increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are deeply worrying, they are...