At AGU Fall Meeting, scientists discuss innovations to better define U.S. methane emissions

December 9, 2013
Lauren Whittenberg, 512-691-3437,
Alison Omens, 202-507-4843,

(Austin, Texas) The American Geophysical Union fall meeting — the largest annual gathering of earth scientists — begins today, bringing together many of the world’s foremost experts working on methane in the atmosphere. Methane emissions is a topic of growing interest in academic, scientific and policy circles, because of the growing awareness of its impact on rates of climate change over the next few decades.

Nine AGU presentations will feature insights from forthcoming studies that are part of the Environmental Defense Fund’s groundbreaking methane research series, where new methodologies and technologies are advancing the current knowledge surrounding the sources and rates of methane emissions from the U.S. natural gas supply chain. Five of the presentations will also share learnings from an innovative campaign EDF coordinated in the Barnett, an active shale oil-and-gas producing basin near Fort Worth, Texas that includes an extensive pipeline and distribution infrastructure.

EDF’s Barnett campaign brings together leading experts from academic and research facilities from around the country, including researchers affiliated with Colorado State University, Duke University, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and University of Colorado-Boulder, Pennsylvania State University, Princeton University, Purdue University, University of California-Davis and Scientific Aviation, University of California-Irvine, University of Cincinnati, University of Houston, University of Michigan, University of Texas-Dallas, Washington State University and West Virginia University. Experts from Carbon Now Cast, Conestoga-Rovers & Associates, Picarro and Sander Geophysics also participated.

A combination of aircraft, vehicle and ground-based measurement teams worked in tandem to collect methane emissions data across the natural gas supply chain – production, gathering and processing, transmission and storage and local distribution. Field work was conducted over two weeks in October 2013. The research teams are now analyzing the data to prepare a paper that will synthesize the results.

The Barnett campaign, along with the September 2013 University of Texas study authored by Dr. David Allen [“Measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the United States”], are part an ambitious study series catalyzed by EDF to better understand methane pollution. EDF has engaged with more than 90 universities, research facilities and industry companies in a rigorous scientific effort to measure methane leaks and releases from across the natural gas system. EDF expects 16 studies to be released in peer-reviewed scientific journals by the end of 2014.

“Identifying and understanding methane pollution is an urgent task and one that needs to be addressed now,” said Mark Brownstein, Associate Vice President and Chief Counsel for EDF’s US Climate & Energy Program. “As we understand methane leakage and release, we are simultaneously working to reduce those emissions as part of a larger effort to tackle the very real risks to public health and the environment associated with unconventional oil and gas development generally. We know enough to get started reducing methane emissions, as Colorado did last month with its new proposed air pollution rules for oil and gas development. The policy implications are clear.”

Practical learnings from EDF’s Barnett campaign along with other methane emissions research, much of which has been sponsored by EDF, will be discussed at AGU this week. Titles of these AGU papers include:

-       Estimates of methane and ethane emissions from the Texas Barnett Shale

-       Quantifying fugitive methane emissions from natural gas production with mobile technology

-       Quantifying the relative contribution of natural gas fugitive emissions to total methane emissions in Colorado, Utah, and Texas using mobile δ13CH4 analysis

-       Results from mobile lab measurements obtained in the Barnett Shale with emphasis on methane and gaseous mercury emissions (Fort Worth, TX)

-       Spatial and temporal characterization of methane plumes from mobile platforms

-       Quantifying urban natural gas leaks from street-level methane mapping: measurements and uncertainty

-       Measuring methane emissions from industrial and waste processing sites using the dual tracer flux ratio method

-       Quantification of methane emissions from street level data

-       Quantification of the methane emission flux from the city of Indianapolis, IN: identification and contribution of sources

NOTE: For reporters interested in speaking about the methane study series, Steven Hamburg, EDF’s Chief Scientist, is available for interviews. Please call Lauren Whittenberg at 512.691.3437 to schedule an interview.



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