Fingerprinting Methane Emissions

As researchers across the world debate the source of recent methane concentration increases, with some indicating fugitive emissions from the fossil fuel industry are most important while others look to those from agriculture and landfills, organizations have answered the call for remote methane detection and monitoring tools to improve measurement reliability. For example, from low-Earth orbit, GMI’s longtime partner, GHGSat has been monitoring methane emissions from Canada’s tar sands, among other targeted sites, since launching its first satellite, CLAIRE, earlier this summer.

photo-bakken-nd-oil-and-gas-field
Aerial view of the Bakken Oil and Gas Field in North Dakota, U.S., one of the areas included in NOAA’s new study quantifying emissions from oil and gas operations. Credit: NOAA

Earlier this year, a team led by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has debuted a method to monitor and fingerprint methane emissions on a larger scale. Collecting samples from a small twin-propeller aircraft, the team uses the light hydrocarbon ethane as a tracer for methane emitted from oil and gas reservoirs as opposed to methane emitted from biological sources. By reviewing variations in ethane concentrations over time, the research team hopes to show how changes in human activities – for example, increases in natural gas production from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) – have altered methane concentrations and worldwide greenhouse gas loading. Researchers

For more information on the study, check out Scientific American’s recent article or NOAA’s recent news release on the implications of the study.

California’s Landmark Methane Legislation

jerry-brown-for-mi
Governor Brown giving remarks before the bill-signing in Long Beach, California. Photo credit: Joe McHugh, California Highway Patrol.

On 19 September 2016, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation enacting new emission limits on short-lived climate pollutants, particularly methane, in the state of California. This historic legislation is globally relevant as it limits methane emissions from the most populous U.S. state and one of the largest economies in the world. California emits roughly 40 MMTCO2e each year, of which 21% comes from landfills and more than half comes from its impressive agriculture sector (source: California Air Resources Board).

 

carb-pie_2014_ch4
Breakdown of 2014 methane emissions in the state of California, by sector. Source: California Air Resources Board (CARB)

The new law calls for a statewide reduction of methane emissions by 40% below 2013 levels by 2030. In addition to the statewide reduction of total emissions, the legislation further specifies a steep reduction in organic waste disposal in state landfills (up to a 75% reduction below 2014 disposal levels by 2025) and 40% reduction from 2013 levels of methane emissions from the state’s dairy and livestock sectors by 2030.

The rules lay out strategies to limit emissions, including a suite of new methane capture and re-use programs tied to more than $90 million in funding. Most of that funding – $50 million from the state’s pre-existing Cap-and-Trade program – is to be directed to help the dairy industry offset the cost of new digester equipment that will be used to control methane emissions.

In addition to direct funding, the new laws include strategies to “identify and address technical, market, regulatory, and other challenges and barriers” to biomethane projects. This includes helping to develop five new pilot projects, establishing new energy infrastructure development and procurement policies (including a biomethane pipeline system), and a pilot financial mechanism “to reduce the economic uncertainty associated with the value of environmental credits.”

The law also calls for a 50% increase in composting in the next four years in order to support the new organic waste stream reductions, and lays out a provisional mechanism to provide financial incentives for the deployment of technology to reduce enteric methane emissions – that is, those from gaseous bovine expulsions – should that technology become both cost-effective and “scientifically proven.”

Methane Gains Traction While New Study Provokes Debate

It’s been quite a busy week for methane – in the past few days the U.S. EPA’s new methane regulations were discussed in the U.S. Congress and the Governor of California signed new legislation to dramatically limit greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, in his state.

We’ll have more on the California legislation for you next week! In the meantime, with all that as a back-drop, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences just published a new study which argues that fugitive emissions from fossil fuel activities may be driving recent increases in atmospheric methane concentrations. Previous studies, however, have pointed that finger at agriculture and landfills.

For the full scoop, check out this great Scientific American article.

August News Round-Up

We’re back after an August holiday! On to the latest news…

As you can see from the assortment of links below, much of the August methane news focused on methane emissions from livestock digestion, also known as enteric fermentation. Although enteric fermentation is the world’s largest source of methane emissions, we here at GMI do not cover it due to the difficulties in measuring and recovering it, but we certainly take a keen interest in mitigation developments. Significantly reducing meat consumption (particularly red meat) and demand is the ultimate mitigation solution, but such incentives and policies are not even under consideration at this time (although California has recently proposed regulation). As scientists study the issue in cows, pigs, and even buffalo, stopgap solutions have emerged such as improvements in feed efficiency and high tech backpacks that capture passed cow gas. The backpacks catch and contain almost 300 liters of methane per cow per day – or enough to power a refrigerator for a day.

enteric-bloomberg

In related news, last year Italian dairy farmers opened The Shit Museum, featuring home goods that are made out of a compound of baked manure and clay that they call merdacotta — “baked excrement.” The group of farmers recently won the top prize for their exhibition of merdacotta goods design at this year’s prestigious Milan Design Week. Check out The New York Times’s fascinating profile on merdacotta goods and the farmers’ commitment to zero waste.

NASA has methane on its radar – the prestigious U.S. space organization is studying the “hot spot” of methane emissions in the Four Corners region of the United States leaking from more than 250 oil and gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines, coal mines and other fossil fuel facilities as well as methane released from thawing Arctic permafrost.

Finally, we also recommend this interesting read on why utilities have little incentive to plug methane leaks.

See you next month!

August Methane News Round-Up

 

Best Wishes to J. Bocanegra, O&G Subcommittee Co-Chair

javier-photoWith both sadness and pride, GMI’s Administrative Support Group announces that Javier Bocanegra Reyes, GMI’s long-standing Oil & Gas Subcommittee Co-Chair, has retired from Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) as of 15 July 2016, after nearly 33 years of service. Mr. Bocanegra has also stepped down from his role as Co-Chair of the Oil & Gas Subcommittee, a position he had held since the chartering of the Global Methane Initiative as well as since the inception of the program as the Methane to Markets Partnership in 2004.

Alongside Elias Freig of the National Water Commission (CONAGUA) and GMI’s Municipal Wastewater Subcommittee, Mr. Bocanegra spearheaded Mexico’s active participation in GMI. A stalwart fixture of the Initiative for more than a dozen years, Mr. Bocanegra attended and facilitated countless informal meetings, formal subcommittee meetings, and both the 2013 Global Methane Expo and 2015 Global Methane Forum. He was often quick to volunteer as a speaker or panel member, and presented on Mexico’s active engagement in methane management and GMI at numerous meetings. Mr. Bocanegra also participated in other international organizations and associations such as the Petroleum Technology Alliance of Canada (PTAC) and the Regional Association of Oil, Gas, and Biofuels Sector Companies in Latin American and the Caribbean (ARPEL).pemex logo

Over his many years of service, Mr. Bocanegra represented and promoted both PEMEX and the GMI across Mexico, Latin America and the world. In a message to the ASG, Mr. Bocanegra expressed his gratitude to GMI for the “great support provided to PEMEX to help to understand the importance of reducing methane emissions in its operations” and his pleasure at our collaborations over the years. GMI thanks and congratulates Mr. Bocanegra on the outstanding contributions he has made to the Oil & Gas Subcommittee and to GMI overall.

Methane from Space, and Happy Birthday to MI!

Happy 1st Anniversary to the Methane International blog, which premiered on July 20, 2015! We hope you have found this format to be useful in learning about the latest GMI, methane, and climate news. The invitation from our first post still stands – please feel free to submit entries with our MI Article Submission Form!

This week we’d like to feature work from our American partner National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Earth Observatory blog. In March, they published a fantastic post chock full of charts and graphs on why methane matters and scientists’ work to quantify the effects of methane emissions. The March post features:

We especially enjoyed the handy charts and graphs, such as this useful graph with projections:

NASA-ch4-graph

(credit: NASA)

In a follow-up post this month, NASA rounded up the results of current methane studies. This post explains the following in plain language:

  • Why the agricultural sector (rice and livestock production) is likely the culprit of recent methane concentration increases;
  • How the U.S. has played an outsized role in global methane emissions increases; and
  • The role of satellites in the future of quantifying methane emissions.

We hope you will continue to return to the Methane International Blog as your one-stop shop on all methane news and global emission reduction activities!

 

University of Cincinnati Geologists Identify Sources of Methane in Ohio, Colorado, and Texas

CINCINNATI, Ohio, United States — Methane comes from various sources, like landfills, bacterial processes in water, cattle and fracking. In testing methane sources at three national sites, University of Cincinnati geologists found no evidence fracking affected methane concentrations in groundwater in Ohio. At sites in Colorado and Texas, methane sources were found to be mixed, divided between fracking, cattle and/or landfills […]

Source: University of Cincinnati Geologists Identify Sources of Methane, Powerful Greenhouse Gas, in Ohio, Colorado and Texas