Research: Emissions Produced by Fracking Less Than Government Claims

Tuesday, 17 Sep 2013 12:17 PM

By Melanie Batley

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Drilling of natural-gas does not create as much leakage of methane as the government and critics of hydraulic fracturing have claimed, a new study has found.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a study of 190 drilling sites by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that roughly 20 percent less "fugitive methane" is being released at the sites than had been previously estimated by the Environmental Protection Agency and a number of university researchers.

That's less than the amount emitted by burning coal, which some argue is more environmentally-friendly than natural gas.

The findings are likely to ease some concerns about the impact of natural-gas extraction on the climate, the Journal reports, though more research needs to be done on other potential sources of leaks during the process before having a definitive picture of total emissions.

The study also showed that extra equipment used in "green completions" was 99 percent effective in capturing methane gas to stop its release into the atmosphere. From January 2015, green completions will be mandatory for all natural gas wells.

"The study shows the EPA got it right in requiring hydraulically fractured natural gas wells to use green completions," said Eric Pooley, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund. Pooley said, however, that the study does not capture a complete picture of the industry as it focused on wells operated by large companies which are better at complying with environmental regulations than smaller ones.

The study was sponsored by nine large fossil fuel companies as well as the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. University officials and researchers say the study was independent and had sound methodology, but an anti-fracking group, Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy, called the study biased and "fatally flawed," the Journal reports.

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