by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 10:52 AM | Permalink
Nonprofit environmental group says failed methodology makes methane study invalid
A new study released by the oil and gas industry claims
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been overestimating
methane emissions from natural gas and fracking, but environmental
groups have dismissed the study as “fatally flawed” and “biased.”
The study, released by the American Petroleum Institute
(API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), claims methane
emissions given off during natural gas production are as low as half of
what the EPA is estimating. The study arrived just in time for a June 19
congressional hearing in which industry officials are testifying in
defense of natural gas production and fracking, a relatively new
drilling process that involves pumping thousands of gallons of water
underground to break up shale formations in order to release natural gas
The nonprofit environmental group Physicians, Scientists,
and Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE) has questioned the methodology
behind the study. One criticism is that the study only covers 20 out of
hundreds of oil and gas operators. This makes the study “statistically
invalid,” according to Anthony Ingraffea, a professor of engineering at
Cornell University and a member of PSE.
Ingraffea also says questions for the study were framed
poorly. In one example, he pointed out that the study gave
survey-takers, which work within the oil and gas industry, EPA estimates
of methane emissions. Given the industry’s interest in making sure
methane emissions are low, this could have “coached” survey-takers into
giving lower estimates, according to Ingraffea.
Ingraffea says he would have preferred a study that
randomly samples a larger number of operators from all over the country
with more objective questions. That, he says, would have produced much
more credible results.
Ingraffea also emphasizes that the data from this study is
made up of estimates derived by mathematical equations, not any actual
measurements taken from the field.
“No one, with one exception, has actually gone out into the field and made measurements,” he says.
The one exception is a study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that was published February in the Journal of Geophysical Research.
The NOAA study measured Colorado gas wells in an attempt to get more
accurate data than what the EPA and the industry have been providing.
The measurements showed methane emissions were at least twice as large
as what the EPA was previously estimating, leading NOAA researchers to
conclude the EPA is greatly underestimating emissions, a stark contrast
to the API/ANGA study.