Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Researchers identify sources of more than 250 methane leaks in Four Corners region

Researchers have identified the sources of more than 250 leaks emitting the greenhouse gas methane in the Four Corners area where New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Arizona meet, said a study published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences. The study was conducted by the same researchers who in 2014 published a study saying methane leaks in the region were 80 percent higher than Environmental Protection Agency estimates.

Researchers, who in 2014 said they were unable to pinpoint the exact sources of the runaway gas, said they were able to do so with the new study by using "aircraft sensors allowing them to pinpoint the source of leaks within a few feet," Phil McKenna reports for InsideClimate News. "The earlier paper relied on less precise, region-wide satellite data."

Lead author Christian Frankenberg, an environmental science and engineering professor at the California Institute of Technology, told McKenna, "It's good news, because with the techniques that we have developed here, it's possible to find the dominant leaks that we can target for methane emissions mitigation,"

The Four Corners region, which spans more than 1,000 square miles, "is one of the nation's largest producers of coal-bed methane and releases about 600,000 metric tons of methane into the atmosphere each year," McKenna writes. "The study is the latest to show that a small number of 'super-emitters,' mainly from oil and gas operations, are responsible for the majority of U.S. methane emissions."

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