Study: Leaks at Natural Gas Wells Less Than Previously Thought

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Spencer Plat t/ Getty Images

Men with Cabot Oil and Gas work on a natural gas valve at a hydraulic fracturing site on Jan. 18, 2012 in South Montrose, Pennsylvania.

A new study from researchers at the University of Texas suggests that the amount of methane leaking at natural gas wells is significantly lower than previously thought, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The study measured “fugitive methane” at 190 well sites and found that the amount of the gas leaking at well sites is about 20% lower than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, much more so than carbon, and some environmentalists have raised concerns that methane leaks could outweigh any emissions reduction resulting from burning natural gas rather than much-dirtier coal.

The study says so-called “green completions” required by regulators are effective in preventing most methane leakage. “For those wells with methane capture or control, 99% of the potential emissions were captured or controlled.”

The study does not address the still-open question of how much methane is lost along the miles of pipeline used in transporting the fossil fuel to market—an amount some say could be significant.

[The Wall Street Journal]