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Aerial surveys of elevated hydrocarbon emissions from oil and gas production sites

A FLIR photograph of a tank site shows massive outflow of volatile hydrocarbons.

A FLIR photograph of a tank site shows massive outflow of volatile hydrocarbons. (Credit: TxSharon)

For this study the researchers performed helicopter-based infrared camera surveys of more than 8,000 O&G well pads in seven U.S. basins to assess the prevalence and distribution of high-emitting hydrocarbon sources.

Key findings:

  • The proportion of sites with such high-emitting sources was 4% nationally but ranged from 1% in the Powder River (Wyoming) to 14% in the Bakken (North Dakota).
  • Emissions were observed three times more frequently at sites in the oil-producing Bakken and oil-producing regions of mixed basins (p<0.0001, Χ2 test).
  • Over 90% of almost 500 detected sources were from tank vents and hatches. Although tank emissions may be partially attributable to flash gas, observed frequencies in most basins exceed those expected if emissions were effectively captured and controlled, demonstrating that tank emission control systems commonly underperform. Tanks represent a key mitigation opportunity for reducing methane and VOC emissions.

Bibliography:
David R. Lyon, Ramon A. Alvarez, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Adam R. Brandt, Robert B. Jackson, and Steven P. Hamburg
Aerial surveys of elevated hydrocarbon emissions from oil and gas production sites
Environ. Sci. Technol., Just Accepted Manuscript
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.6b00705
Publication Date (Web): April 5, 2016

See also:
Phil McKenna, Researchers Find No Shortcuts for Spotting Wells That Leak the Most Methane. Inside Climate News, Apr 8, 2016

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