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Wed May 2, 2012, 08:10 PM

Study Questions Natural Gas's Environmental Benefits


WASHINGTON—As U.S. lawmakers promote natural gas as a way to reduce air pollution, a scientific study published this week questions the benefits of the fuel when used to power vehicles and generate electricity.

The study authors said methane leaks from the production and transportation of natural gas should be studied in greater detail before the U.S. adopts any major policy shifts.

The study, co-written by scientists at several universities and the environmental group Environmental Defense Fund, wades into an increasingly murky area of energy research. In it, scientists said the production of natural gas results in methane leaking into the atmosphere, which contributes to climate change and limits the environmental benefits of natural gas. Methane, the primary component in natural gas, is more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas but decomposes more quickly in the atmosphere.

The research comes at a time when President Obama and other U.S. lawmakers are hailing natural gas as a fuel of the future, capable of replacing coal in power plants and gasoline in cars. That is because it is thought to be better for the environment and is produced in abundance in the U.S.


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Reply Study Questions Natural Gas's Environmental Benefits (Original post)
jpak May 2012 OP
kristopher May 2012 #1
Nihil May 2012 #2

Response to jpak (Original post)

Wed May 2, 2012, 08:33 PM

1. It gets worse...

I've been waiting for more evidence before taking a firm position on fracking and the ensuing huge expansion of the use of natural gas. My reasons were that the anecdotal evidence of negative environmental effects related to groundwater had not been confirmed.
I was worried, but not yet willing to acknowledge, that the CO2 footprint was so much worse than has been recorded. I'm still not at the point where I view the evidence as definitive, but I'm now of the opinion that the preponderance of the evidence suggests that we must proceed cautiously in developing policy and assume that the damage is worst case until it is proven conclusively otherwise.

A new study estimates that fluids used in the hydraulic fracturing of natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region can migrate into underground drinking water supplies far more quicklythan experts have.

A surge in gas and oil drilling in the U.S. is helping drive the economic recovery and is enhancing energy security. But as the situation in Ohio shows, cheaper energy prices and the focus on fossil fuels has been bad news for the renewable energy industry.
READ THE e360 REPORT previously estimated. The study, based on computer modeling and funded by opponents of fracking, concluded that natural faults and fractures in the Marcellus shale, exacerbated by the effects of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” could allow chemicals to reach shallow drinking water supplies in as little as “just a few years.” Companies involved in fracking for natural gas have maintained that impermeable layers of rock in the Marcellus Shale formation would keep fracking fluids safely locked nearly a mile below water supplies. But independent hydrologist Tom Myers, who published his study in the journal Ground Water, says his modeling shows that is not the case. “Simply put, [the rock layers] are not impermeable,” said Myers. The Marcellus Shale underlies large portions of the northeastern U.S., and thousands of fracking wells — each often using millions of gallons of water — have been drilled in recent years. The study was funded by two organizations opposed to gas fracking, and some scientists strongly disagree with its conclusions.


Part of the reason I was willing to proceed slowly in firming my opposition to fracking is the traditional view of natgas having only 2/5ths the carbon footprint of coal, but also, and more importantly because I believed, and continue to believe, that the quantity that is recoverable is exaggerated. Rapid depletion of wells that were expected to last far, far longer fits with an economic incentive for developers to exaggerate their reserves.

Unfortunately there is another area I've been keeping my eyes on and developments in that area negate any chance that rapid depletion of fracked gas will soon result in a more rapid shift to renewables than would occur with coal. There have been hints of "progress" in this area, but the following news literally sent a shiver down my spine.

There is an embedded link to a discussion on estimated quantities of accessible methane hydrates.

DOE Completes Field Test of Methane Hydrate Extraction in Alaska

The Department of Energy, along with the Japan Oil, Gas, and Metals National Corporation and ConocoPhillips, completed a successful field trial of methane hydrate extraction along Alaska's North Slope.

Methane hydrate is basically natural gas locked up in ice. Actual, commercial-scale production of gas from these formations has never been accomplished, but the DOE's success here might open the door to the industry. The method the DOE used was novel: carbon dioxide was injected into the hydrates, where it was exchanged with the methane molecules locked up in the ice. Using this technique, they were able to extract natural gas continuously for 30 days. The previous longest run was six days.

If methane hydrate production becomes cheap and easy, it could change the global energy picture dramatically. The exact amounts aren't totally clear, but around the world there could be more energy locked up in hydrates than in all the rest of the planet's fossil fuels combined....


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Response to kristopher (Reply #1)

Thu May 3, 2012, 05:46 AM

2. It certainly does.


That second extract should be an OP in its own right . Yuck.

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