Oil and gas production sites have been cited by the Environmental Protection Agency as the largest source of methane emissions—greenhouse gases—in America. A recent study led by Colorado State University aims to find solutions that would reduce emissions from natural gas gathering facilities and processing plants throughout the country, The Coloradoan reports.
The study, conducted with Carnegie Mellon University and Aerodyne Research, evaluated oil and gas facilities in 13 states, including Wyoming and Colorado. Researchers detected “wide variations” of methane emissions at 114 gathering stations and 16 processing plants over a 20-week period.
Anthony Marchese, lead researcher and mechanical engineer at CSU, described the study as the “largest, most comprehensive data set ever collected on direct methane emissions from the gathering sector.” Data from the study indicates that gathering facilities offer the most potential for emission reduction because they are less regulated and maintained the highest methane loss ratios.
Ratios at processing plants weren’t found to exceed 0.6 percent, though gathering stations reportedly put out ratios of more than 10 percent; neither of these findings violate state regulations. According to Marchese, many of the major problems at gathering stations, such as broken or leaky valves, were remedied within 10 minutes.
Sponsors of the study include the Environmental Defense Fund, Access Midstream, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Hess Corp. and Southwestern Energy Co.