Friday, April 5, 2013

WRI Working Paper Released: Clearing the Air: Reducing Upstream Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Systems

Recently, the World Resources Institute, a global environmental think tank whose mission is “to move human society to live in ways that protect Earth’s environment and its capacity to provide for the needs and aspirations of current and future generations,” released a report authored by James Bradbury titled, Clearing the Air: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from U.S. Natural Gas Systems (2013). The 60-page report available here discusses the following:
Natural gas production in the United States has increased rapidly in recent years, growing by 23 percent from 2007 to 2012. This development has significantly changed projections of the future energy mix in the U.S. Advances combining horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have enabled producers to access vast supplies of natural gas deposits in shale rock formations. This shale gas phenomenon has helped to reduce energy prices, directly and indirectly supporting growth for many sectors of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing.

This paper seeks to clarify what is known about methane emissions from the natural gas sector, what progress has been made to reduce those emissions, and what more can be done. Box S-1 lists the paper’s key findings. Box S-2 describes the scope of this study.  
Shale gas development has triggered divisive debates over the near- and long-term environmental implications of developing and using these resources, including concerns over air quality, water resources, and community impacts. One point of controversy concerns the climate change implications of shale gas development, in part due to uncertainty about emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that is the primary component of natural gas. Fugitive methane emissions reduce the net climate benefits of using lower-carbon natural gas as a substitute for coal and oil for electricity generation and transportation, respectively.

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