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Air sampling reveals high emissions from gas field

Jeff Tollefson, Nature Journal
When US government scientists began sampling the air from a tower north of Denver, Colorado, they expected urban smog — but not strong whiffs of what looked like natural gas. They eventually linked the mysterious pollution to a nearby natural-gas field, and their investigation has now produced the first hard evidence that the cleanest-burning fossil fuel might not be much better than coal when it comes to climate change.

Led by researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Colorado, Boulder, the study estimates that natural-gas producers in an area known as the Denver-Julesburg Basin are losing about 4% of their gas to the atmosphere — not including additional losses in the pipeline and distribution system. This is more than double the official inventory, but roughly in line with estimates made in 2011 that have been challenged by industry. And because methane is some 25 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, releases of that magnitude could effectively offset the environmental edge that natural gas is said to enjoy over other fossil fuels.

“If we want natural gas to be the cleanest fossil fuel source, methane emissions have to be reduced,” says Gabrielle Pétron, an atmospheric scientist at NOAA and at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and first author on the study, currently in press at the Journal of Geophysical Research. Emissions will vary depending on the site, but Pétron sees no reason to think that this particular basin is unique. “I think we seriously need to look at natural-gas operations on the national scale.”…
(7 February 2012)
Independent confirmation of R.W.Howarth’s work at Cornell. Related post with link to the report

U.S. Shale Gas Exports Face Hurdles, Former Exxon CEO Says

Kari Lundgren, Bloomberg
Political constraints and concern production gains at shale fields aren’t sustainable will hinder the development of liquefied natural gas export plants in the U.S., former Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) chief Lee Raymond said.

“There is going to be a big debate in the U.S. as to whether or not they’re going to permit the export of liquefied natural gas,” Raymond said in an interview in Oslo yesterday. “Even if you get past the politics, you have to test whether or not the resource base is sufficient.”

Politicians including Democrats Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon and Representative Edward Markey of Massachusetts have said exports may raise domestic gas prices. In allowing exports, the U.S. may be “trading away the enormous economic advantage of having large, low-cost domestic natural gas supply,” Wyden said in an e-mailed statement on Jan. 6. “It’s going to be a little while before people are really confident that there is going to be a sufficient amount of gas for 30 years to support the construction of an LNG plant,” said Raymond, who stepped down in 2005. “I’m frankly not sure that we have enough experience with shale gas to make the kind of judgment you’d have to make.”…
(10 February 2012)

Poland Hopes Shale Gas Will Free It from Gazprom

Jens Mattern, Der Spiegel
A gold rush is underway in Poland, where international energy companies are scrambling for the right to drill for shale gas. Poland’s government sees the extraction as a ticket to independence from Russia’s Gazprom, but some residents near the drilling sites are wary of the risks…

The Polish government is excited about shale gas because it represents a shot at energy independence. The country is currently one of the largest customers of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, buying 10.25 billion cubic meters of natural gas from it last year alone. Gazprom’s opaque pricing policies related to Poland are a constant source of tension between the countries. The fact that the Kremlin-cozy company has delivered 7 percent less gas to the Poland since last Thursday, while Europe suffers from a record cold snap, hasn’t helped, either…

Organized opposition to shale gas drilling has yet to form in Poland. In fact, independent environmentalist Marek Kryda disapprovingly notes that even members of Poland’s Green Party refrain from criticizing the use of coal, from which roughly 90 percent of country’s electricity is generated. What’s more, although he lacks proof to back his claims, he says that many affected residents are letting themselves be silenced by bribes and intimidation.

So far, there have only been a few cases of proven official corruption related to the awarding of drilling permits. One involved someone working at the Warsaw-based Polish Geological Institute, which called off all collaboration with petroleum companies at the beginning of the year…

(9 February 2012)

Fracking’s Toll on Pets, Livestock Chills Farmers: Commentary

Mike Di Paola, Bloomberg
Smelling gas one morning, a southern Pennsylvania farmer almost passed out when he went outside to check on his bellowing cows.
One of the animals did keel over, kicking its feet in spasms. A couple of days later, a calf was fighting for its life, the farmer said. It died…

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a process for extracting gas by injecting high volumes of water and chemicals into deep wells, has sparked complaints about ruined landscapes and fouled groundwater. Increasingly there is evidence, mostly anecdotal, that animals are suffering.
A new study by veterinarian Michelle Bamberger and Robert Oswald, a professor of veterinary medicine at Cornell University, chronicles case studies of dozens of farmers and pet owners in six states over the Marcellus Shale.

Their findings, published in “New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy,” are a harrowing account of sudden deaths of cattle, as well as reproductive and neurological problems in horses, cats, dogs and other animals…
(8 February 2012)
Related post with link to the report