Giant new 50-metre deep ‘crater’ opens up in Arctic tundra

Giant new 50-metre deep ‘crater’ opens up in Arctic tundra

SOURCE: The Siberian Times DATE: August 29, 2020 SNIP: The recently-formed new hole or funnel is the latest to be seen in northern Siberia since the phenomenon was first registered in 2014. It was initially spotted by chance from the air by a Vesti Yamal TV crew en route from an unrelated assignment. A group of scientists then made an expedition to examine the large cylindrical crater which has a depth of up to 50 metres. Such funnels are believed to be caused by the build up of methane gas in pockets of thawing permafrost under the surface. Scientist Dr Evgeny Chuvilin, a leading researcher at Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, said: ‘What we saw today is striking in its size and grandeur. ‘These are the colossal forces of nature that create such objects.’ The ‘crater’ – these holes are called hydrolaccoliths or bulgunnyakhs by scientists – is given the number 17, and is seen as the most impressive of the large holes to suddenly appear in recent years as the permafrost...
Trump rolls back methane climate standards for oil and gas industry

Trump rolls back methane climate standards for oil and gas industry

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: August 13, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration is revoking rules that require oil and gas drillers to detect and fix leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that heats the planet far faster than carbon dioxide. Methane has a much more potent short-term warming effect than CO2 and addressing it is critical to slowing global heating as the world is already on track to become more than 3C hotter than before industrialization. The Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Andrew Wheeler, will announce the rollback from Pennsylvania, which has major oil and gas operations and is also a politically important swing state. The rule change is part of what Trump calls his “energy dominance” agenda. The Trump administration’s changes apply to new wells and those drilled since 2016, when President Barack Obama enacted the regulation in an effort to help stall climate change during a boom in fracking – a method of extracting fossil gas by injecting water and chemicals underground. The regulations required companies to regularly check for methane leaks from valves, pipelines and tanks. Large oil companies have argued for keeping the rules, saying they are needed so the industry can limit its climate footprint as it markets gas as a smart alternative to coal – which emits far more carbon dioxide. Roughly a quarter of global warming the planet has experienced in recent decades has been due to methane, said Robert Howarth, a researcher who studies methane at Cornell University. The oil and gas industry is the biggest source of the pollutant. US methane emissions have become more concerning as scientists have begun to better...
Global warming will cause ecosystems to produce more methane than first predicted

Global warming will cause ecosystems to produce more methane than first predicted

SOURCE: University of London, Nature Climate Change DATE: June 29, 2020 SNIP: New research suggests that as the Earth warms natural ecosystems will release more of the greenhouse gas methane than expected from predictions based on temperature increases alone. The study, published today in Nature Climate Change, attributes this difference to changes in the balance of microbial communities within ecosystems that regulate methane emissions. The production and removal of methane from ecosystems is regulated by two types of microorganisms, methanogens – which naturally produce methane – and methanotrophs that remove methane by converting it into carbon dioxide. Previous research has suggested that these two natural processes show different sensitivities to temperature and could therefore be affected differently by global warming. Research led by Queen Mary University of London and the University of Warwick studied the impact of global warming on freshwater microbial communities and methane emissions by observing the effect of experimental warming of artificial ponds over 11 years. They found that warming produced a disproportionate increase in methane production over methane removal, resulting in increased methane emissions that exceeded temperature-based predictions. Professor Mark Trimmer, Professor of Biogeochemistry at Queen Mary, said: “Our observations show that the increase in methane emissions we see is beyond what you could predict based on a simple physiological response to the temperature increase.” Dr Kevin Purdy, Associate Professor of Microbial Ecology at Warwick, added: “Our studies have led to a better understanding of how global warming can affect methane emissions from freshwaters. This means that future predictions of methane emissions need to take into account how ecosystems and their resident microbial communities will...
Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace

Millions of abandoned oil wells are leaking methane, a climate menace

SOURCE: Reuters DATE: June 16, 2020 SNIP: More than a century of oil and gas drilling has left behind millions of abandoned wells, many of which are leaching pollutants into the air and water. And drilling companies are likely to abandon many more wells due to bankruptcies, as oil prices struggle to recover from historic lows after the coronavirus pandemic crushed global fuel demand, according to bankruptcy lawyers, industry analysts and state regulators. Leaks from abandoned wells have long been recognized as an environmental problem, a health hazard and a public nuisance. They have been linked to dozens of instances of groundwater contamination by research commissioned by the Groundwater Protection Council, whose members include state ground water agencies. Orphaned wells have been blamed for a slew of public safety incidents over the years, including a methane blowout at the construction site of a waterfront hotel in California last year. They also pose a serious threat to the climate that researchers and world governments are only starting to understand, according to a Reuters review of government data and interviews with scientists, regulators, and United Nations officials. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year recommended that U.N. member countries start tracking and publishing the amount of methane leaching from their abandoned oil and gas wells after scientists started flagging it as a global warming risk. So far, the United States and Canada are the only nations to do so. The U.S. figures are sobering: More than 3.2 million abandoned oil and gas wells together emitted 281 kilotons of methane in 2018, according to the data, which was included in the...
A U.S. oil-producing region is leaking twice as much methane as once thought

A U.S. oil-producing region is leaking twice as much methane as once thought

SOURCE: Science News DATE: April 22, 2020 SNIP: Satellite data show that more than twice as much methane is leaking from a vast U.S. oil- and natural gas-producing region than previously estimated. From May 2018 to March 2019, a European Space Agency satellite measured an average of 2.7 teragrams of methane emitted each year from the Permian Basin, which spans more than 160,000 square kilometers in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico. Previously, ground-based estimates of the methane leaked from the region’s oil and gas activities were about 1.2 teragrams per year. The new estimate represents 3.7 percent of the total volume of natural gas being extracted from the Permian Basin, say Yuzhong Zhang, an atmospheric scientist at Harvard University, and colleagues. Such a leakage rate is 60 percent higher than the national average, and is also the highest rate ever measured from a U.S. oil- and gas-producing region, the team reports April 22 in Science Advances. Production in the Permian Basin has skyrocketed in the last decade; the region now accounts for about 30 percent of U.S. oil production, and about 10 percent of its natural gas. This growth may be exceeding the ability of the existing infrastructure in the region to contain and transport the gas, leading to extensive venting and flaring. That could be to blame for the high leakage rate, the researchers say. This study demonstrates the ability of a new satellite sensor, the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument, or TROPOMI, to map atmospheric methane emissions from a region; in the future, satellites could help quantify methane leaked from many source regions around the globe, the researchers...