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According to a new study, many US gas utilities are managing to reduce methane leakages from their natural gas distribution networks, but more work is needed.

A new study conducted by the Washington State University’s Laboratory for Atmospheric Research with the cooperation of and partial funding from industry has been published on Tuesday, March 31 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, and confirms that methane leakages from American natural gas systems have dropped sharply in the past 20 years.

Researches involved direct measurements at 13 gas distribution centres across the US, and the report found that the amount of methane released now is 36% to 70% lower than estimates published in 2011 by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, which were based on data from the 1990s. According to the researchers, such a limitation of methane emissions can largely be attributed to equipment upgrades – including the replacement of leaky old steel pipes – and improved leak detection and maintenance.

However, the amount of methane leaking each year from these local natural gas systems is still alarming, as it is comparable to the amount of carbon dioxide produced by 19 coal-fired power plants; nevertheless, experts declared themselves to be impressed by the study’s results.

The Obama administration has promoted the use of natural gas as a power source as it produces less carbon dioxide than burning coal, but methane, which is a major component of natural gas, is a powerful greenhouse gas and causes nearly 85 times the effect of carbon dioxide on climate change over a 20-year period, so the government has also insisted on the need to measure and reduce leaks.


The gLAWcal Team

POREEN project

Thursday, 2 April 2015

(Source: New York Times)