Natural Gas

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Untapped Potential: Reducing Global Methane Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Systems

This report surveys existing data on current and historical methane emissions from oil and gas systems worldwide, highlights gaps and disparities in country-level data, predicts methane emissions growth through 2030 under a range of scenarios, and quantifies the impact of action from top-emitting countries to control their methane emissions.

The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking

This report synthesizes the research from over 100 academic studies and government databases to examine the environmental impacts of unconventional energy extraction and hydraulic fracturing. It describes production estimates and decline curves for oil and gas wells, as well as their water requirements and water intensities. Subsequent sections discuss fracking’s impacts on seismic activity, water contamination, and air quality. The report concludes with a description of various pollutants that are emitted throughout the stages of gas extraction, production, and processing. Recommendations for further research on each of the report’s topics are embedded throughout.

Natural Gas versus Coal: Is Natural Gas Better for the Climate?

This study analyzes the level of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that are attributable to electricity generated by natural gas verses coal. It considers carbon dioxide and methane emissions that are released during the production and combustion of coal and natural gas. The study, published in Electricity Journal, concludes that methane emissions, at certain leakage rates, could actually cause electricity generated from natural gas to contribute to higher GHG emissions in the near to mid-term, compared to electricity generated from coal. Energy Innovation has also released an issue brief that summarizes this research.

The Mystery of the Missing Methane

This paper explores the science of measuring methane emissions and calls on the EPA to improve its approach to estimating methane emissions. New research concludes that methane emissions are significantly undercounted by the EPA Inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks. Uncertainty remains about the sources of this “missing,” methane, but there are strong indications that at least some of it is coming from the natural gas system. Better data on methane emissions is needed to guide climate policy and more efficiently regulate the natural gas industry.

The Natural Gas Revolution: Critical Questions for a Sustainable Energy Future

Over the past year, Resources for the Future (RFF) has held discussions with energy experts and conducted a literature review to determine what is known, uncertain, and unknown about the future development of natural gas. This report captures RFF’s results from these activities to offer insight on how natural gas development can be sustained in the long-term, taking into account economic, environmental, and social considerations. The report is organized into seven sections on natural gas topics; supply, demand, economic impact, environmental (and public health) impacts, climate interactions and impacts, regulation and other approaches to reduce risks, and international implications. Each section includes critical questions regarding the sustainable development of natural gas. Answering these questions will greatly expand the pool of knowledge surrounding natural gas opportunities as well as help inform the public policies that determine whether these opportunities are realized.

Methane Research: The 16 Study Series

In 2012, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) began an extensive research project, which involved the collaboration of more than 100 research and industry experts, to investigate where and how much methane is leaking in the U.S. natural gas supply chain. This fact sheet summarizes the 16 independent studies that the project comprises, providing an overview paragraph and a list of resources for each study entry.

Frack or Fiction

Frack or Fiction offers recommendations to the California Department of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources on its draft regulation for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) released in December 2012. The report also includes an overview of technological, environmental, and policy issues. California’s Monterey shale formation is estimated to represent 64 percent of recoverable U.S. Shale Oil. Energy Innovation’s Director of Research, Chris Busch, concludes that the draft regulation needs significant improvements if resource development in this region is to be done responsibly.

Potential Contaminant Pathways from Hydraulically Fractured Shale to Aquifers

This article sheds light on some of the potential long-term impacts of hydraulic fracturing on water supplies. Interpretative simulations are used to analyze the pathways through which fluids and contaminants released from shale during fracking can travel to and contaminate water in aquifers. The author estimates that contaminants could rise to the surface through naturally-occurring fractures as well as fracking-induced fractures in less than ten years. The author also points out that there is geological evidence that contaminants travel vertically towards the surface over tens of thousands of years. However, he argues that fracking, especially in areas where there are naturally-occurring shale fractures, could reduce that travel time to tens or hundreds of years, and even to less than 10 years in certain cases.

Environmental Impacts During Marcellus Shale Gas Drilling: Causes, Impacts, and Remedies

This report analyzes the impacts of Pennsylvania’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing of natural gas. The authors examine 2,988 violations from nearly 4,000 natural wells reported to the Department of Environmental Protection between January 2008 and August 2011. Of these violations, 62% were administrative and preventative, while 38% were environmental. The 1,144 environmental violations resulted from 845 separate events, of which 25 were classified as “major” environmental events. The authors find that the percentage of environmental regulations relative to the number of wells drilled fell from 58.2 percent to 30.5 percent between 2008 and 2010, and dropped further to 26.5 percent during 2011. The authors conclude that the regulation of hydraulic fracturing that coincided with the decrease in environmental violations and events has significantly helped mitigate harmful environmental impacts of shale gas drilling.

In Fracking’s Wake: New Rules are Needed to Protect Our Health and Environment from Contaminated Wastewater

This report offers a comprehensive overview of the different contaminants present in wastewater generated during the hydraulic fracturing process. It also presents the environmental impacts of each contaminant, and discusses current regulation relevant to wastewater management. Finally, the report gives policy recommendations regarding the following methods and aspects of wastewater management: (1) treatment and discharge to water bodies, (2) handling, storage, and transport prior to disposal, (3) underground injection, (4) reuse for additional hydraulic fracturing, (5) using impoundments and tanks for storage and disposal, (6) land application, and (7) safe disposal of residual waste derived from the treatment of wastewater.

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