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Contribution of oil and gas production to renewed increase in atmospheric methane

Graph: Rise of atmospheric methane from 1978 thru 2015; Src: NOAAThis new study corroborates the evidence that the current oil and gas production boom is driving the increased presence of the powerful green house gas methane in the atmosphere. Besides increased methane emissions from tropical wetlands, the previously grossly underestimated rate of leaking methane from fossil fuel production, namely by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), is aggravating the observed global warming.

Key findings:

  • Long-term trend analysis reveals a consistent renewed methane increase since 2007 of 6.2 [5.6, 6.9] ppb yr−1 (parts-per-billion per year) at the Zugspitze and 6.0 [5.3, 6.7] ppb yr−1 at Lauder (95 % confidence intervals).
  • Zugspitze methane and ethane time series are significantly correlated for the period 2007–2014 and can be assigned to thermogenic methane emissions with an ethane-to-methane ratio (EMR) of 12–19 %.
  • A total ethane (tracer for thermogenic methane) emission increase over the period 2007–2014 from oil and natural gas sources of 1–11 Tg yr−1 along with an overall methane emission increase of 24–45 Tg yr−1 could be infered by the study measurements.
  • The study’s results suggest that the method of long-term observations of column-averaged ethane provides a valuable constraint on the source attribution of methane emission changes and provides basic knowledge for developing effective climate change mitigation strategies.

Petra Hausmann¹ , Ralf Sussmann¹ , and Dan Smale²
Contribiution of oil and natural gas production to renewed increase in atmospheric methane (2007–2014): top–down estimate from ethane and methane column observations
¹ Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, IMK-IFU, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany
² National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Lauder, New Zealand
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 16, 3227–3244, 2016; doi:10.5194/acp-16-3227-2016
Fulltext (PDF) | Abstract
Received: 30 November 2015 – Published in Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss.: 21 December 2015
Revised: 18 February 2016 – Accepted: 5 March 2016 – Published: 11 March 2016


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