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Burning natural gas is doing little to mitigate methane emissions from oil and gas, study finds

Researchers from the University of Michigan and CarbonMapper/University of Arizona found that methane emissions from oil and gas wells ‘are five times higher than previously thought, due to both unlit flaring and inefficient combustion’ .

New research suggests that burning natural gas from oil and gas wells isn’t actually doing a great job of reducing methane emissions. In fact, according to a study published Thursday in the newspaper Sciencesemissions are five times higher than previously thought, due to both unlit flares and inefficient combustion.” Researchers from the University of Michigan and CarbonMapper/University of Arizona took air samples from the Permian, Eagle Ford, and Bakken basins, areas responsible for about 80% of U.S. burning, using torch-out prevalence surveys, the team found that when the flares are used correctly, they destroy only 91.1% of the methane compared to the industry and government estimate of 98%.

A difference of around 7% may seem minimal, but those numbers add up quickly when it comes to harmful emissions like methane, which is more than 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. “This represents a five-fold increase in methane emissions above current assumptions and a total of 4-10% of total US oil and gas methane emissions,” the researchers wrote, adding what “you”This highlights a previously underestimated methane source and mitigation opportunity.” The researchers also emphasized the need for accountability to fully understand the problem in order to effectively address it.


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