Fracking's Methane Trail: A Detective Story

Posted by colin.hargreaves@aoc.org.au on May 29, 2014 at 3:40 AM

by Elizabeth Shogren, 2012, NPR

Gaby Petron didn't set out to challenge industry and government assumptions about how much pollution comes from natural gas drilling.

 

She was just doing what she always does as an air pollution data sleuth for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

 

"I look for a story in the data," says Petron. "You give me a data set, I will study it back and forth and left and right for weeks, and I will find something to tell about it."

 

Petron saw high levels of methane in readings from a NOAA observation tower north of Denver. And through painstaking, on-the-ground detective work, she tied that pollution to the sprawling oil and gas fields in northeastern Colorado.

 

The story she stumbled into suggests that government may be far underestimating air pollution from natural gas production. Her measurements, which were published in the Journal of Geophysical Research, suggest that methane, a potent greenhouse gas, is leaking at at least twice the rate reported by the industry.

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Categories: What We Can Do - Mitigation, News Items

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