A new EPA report drastically reduces the levels of methane originally thought to be leaking from natural gas drilling operations across the country.
The agency said tighter pollution controls have resulted in an average reduction in the release of greenhouse gasses of 41.6 million metric tons each year from 1990 through 2010. The figure is 20 percent lower than original projections by the EPA.
However, it came as no shock to industry officials.
Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, said the industry is constantly working on research and development to tighten up the loss of methane.
“We have done a lot of research and development work as it pertains to gaskets. The type of equipment we use is always being reviewed and researched so we can better use new technologies,” DeMarco told MetroNews Monday. “The fact we are doing a better job is not a surprise to the industry, it’s surprising to detractors.”
The gains for the environment, in this case, are actually gains for the gas industry since methane is part of the natural gas product.
“We don’t want to lose one MCF of methane if we can keep from doing it,” said DeMarco. “That is money wasted, money that’s sent up into the atmosphere. We’d much rather make some money on it.”
The new findings are splitting the feelings of many in the environmental community. There is a growing body of thought that credits methane as a green source of energy helping to reduce carbon emissions. Still others aren’t ready to come to terms with the fracking — the process that created the boom in the oil and gas industries now that it’s being utilized in the Appalachian Basin to break shale formations and release natural gas.
“Even with this study, you’ve still got the environmental community beating up on the extractive industries,” DeMarco said. “Even though the numbers show we’ve improved the environment over the last 25 to 30 years.”
DeMarco added the research and development will continue and will improve as the demand for natural gas grows and the industry continues its rapid expansion.