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Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Nat gasBy Steve Horn • Monday, March 20, 2017 – 17:45

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21–120 times more methane than earlier estimates.

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11–90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”).

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue’s flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.

“Power plants currently use more than one third of natural gas consumed in the U.S. and the volume used is expected to increase as market forces drive the replacement of coal with cheaper natural gas,” the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) said in a press release. The nonprofit commissioned and funded the study with a grant from the Afred P. Sloan Foundation.

“But if natural gas is going to deliver on its promise, methane emissions due to leaks, venting, and flaring need to be kept to a minimum.”

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