19 Sep 2013

A peer-reviewed University of Texas study supports numerous other studies that have undermined claims by anti-hydraulic fracturing and anti-natural gas activists.

University of Texas scientists found that the amount of methane that escapes during the construction of a hydraulically fractured natural gas well is only about 0.42 per cent of all the gas produced. This is slightly lower than US Environmental Protection Agency estimates and much less than a controversial – and much-criticised – Cornell University study had indicated.

This latest study follows findings from experts at the U.S. Department of Energy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Maryland that have either disputed the types of conclusions in the Cornell report or released their own studies showing a low leakage rate. Even a study underwritten by the anti-gas Sierra Club found that the Cornell paper was “biased” and “wrong.”

Cornell academic and anti-hydraulic fracturing activist Anthony Ingraffea has written that shale gas lacks a climate advantage “unless leaks can be kept below 2 per cent.”

This and other studies make it clear that methane leaks are well below that threshold and natural gas has a clear emissions reduction advantage.

US Energy Information Agency data shows that – thanks largely to a shift from coal to natural gas – US carbon dioxide emissions declined by more than 700 million tonnes last year. That’s 12 per cent lower than the peak in 2007.

As Danish academic Bjorn Lomberg has stated: “The shift from coal to natural gas is alone responsible for a reduction of between 400 and 500Mt. In fact, it amounts to twice the reduction the rest of the world has achieved, even under the Kyoto Protocol.”