Report Claims that EPA Exaggerated Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fracking

August 24, 2011

EPA exaggerated greenhouse emissions at frack sites—report
Nathanial Gronewold

HIS Cambridge Energy Research Associates released a report which concludes that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exaggerated the extent of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the shale gas industry. The report, entitled “Mismeasuring Methane: Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Upstream Natural Gas Development,” concludes with the following key findings:

  • EPA’s current methodology for estimating gas field methane emissions is not based on methane emitted during well completions, but is based on a data sample of methane captured during well completions.
  • The assumptions underlying EPA’s methodology do not reflect current industry practices. As a result, the report concludes that EPA’s estimates of methane emissions are dramatically overstated and it would be unwise to use them as a basis for policymaking.
  • If methane emissions were as high as EPA assumes, extremely hazardous conditions would be created at the well site. According to the report, such conditions would not be permitted by industry or regulators, and for this reason, if no other, the estimates are not credible.
  • EPA has proposed additional regulation of hydraulically fractured gas wells under the Clean Air Act. According to the report, for the most part these proposed regulations are already standard industry practice and are unlikely to significantly reduce upstream GHG emissions. Rather, the proposed regulations will likely result in better documentation of actual GHG emissions from upstream natural gas development.

The HIS CERA report contains similar criticisms of the analysis performed by Robert W. Howarth, Renee Santoro, and Anthony Ingraffea of Cornell University (published in Climate Change Letters, March 13, 2011), which also found that emissions of methane during flowback from unconventional gas wells is much greater than previously estimated.