Methane emissions from oil and gas industry “vastly underestimated” – new study

200219 University of Rochester Benjamin Hmiel

University of Rochester researchers measured the carbon-14 isotope in air in Greenland ice cores from more than 200 years ago. Photo: Benjamin Hmiel/University of Rochester

Emissions of methane from fossil fuels have been underestimated by up to 40%, according to a new study.

The findings suggests that reducing the use of gas, oil and coal is a key to curbing climate change.

The amount of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has risen in the atmosphere by more than 150 per cent in the past three centuries.

But it’s been difficult to show whether this increase was from biological (farming, livestock or landfill sites) or fossil sources, sequestered for millions of years in ancient hydrocarbon deposits.

It’s also been uncertain how much of the fossil methane has been released naturally in geologic seeps and how much as a result of humans extracting and using fossil fuels.

Researchers at the University of Rochester in the US examined levels of methane from about 300 years ago by analysing air that had been trapped since then in Greenland glaciers.

Their findings, published in Nature today, suggest that the share of naturally-released fossil methane had previously been overestimated by “an order of magnitude”.

This means that emissions from fossil fuel extraction and burning had been under-estimated by 25-40%, they said.

The lead researcher Benjamin Hmiel said:

“If we think of the total methane in the atmosphere as slices of a pie—one slice is from ruminants, this other is from wetlands. The slice we used to think was from geologic methane was too big.

“So what we’re saying is that the fossil fuel pie slice is larger than what we thought, and we can have a bigger influence on the size of the slice, because it’s something we can control.

“Placing stricter methane emission regulations on the fossil fuel industry will have the potential to reduce future global warming to a larger extent than previously thought.”

Methane has a greenhouse effect about 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period. But methane lasts in the atmosphere for a relatively short time, on average only nine years, compared with carbon dioxide, which can persist for a century.

Dr Hmiel said:

“If we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide today, high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would still persist for a long time.

“Methane is important to study because if we make changes to our current methane emissions, it’s going to reflect more quickly.”

He added that the research had positive implications:

“Most of the methane emissions are anthropogenic, so we have more control. If we can reduce our emissions, it’s going to have more of an impact.”

42 replies »

  1. Do we know how recent (in years) their samples go to? Suspect steep increase due to cracking particularly the 15x increase from 2005 to2015. Note the large Alaskan emperature temperatures a few years later – as per Washington Post and CNN.

  2. This is interesting. It is incredible that thousands of climate scientists can make such a basic (and huge) error. Next week it will be something else.

    What does it change? Not a lot. Coal is on the way out (except in China / India / Indonesia / Australia / Russia / Germany). Global oil and gas demand contiues to rise until peak oil in 15 years or so and peak gas towards 2050. What the scientists are telling us is that post peak oil and gas temperature rises should decrease more rapidly than currently forecast. A win win….

    The amount of methane in the atmosphere does not change, just the source (this week at least).

      • No, not an error. Thousands obtain huge grants to “prove” one thing, then no more grants to say the same thing, so-surprise, surprise-contradiction of what was stated previously gets more grants!

        So, as David states better understanding is evolving, which other bits of previous “results” should be binned?

        Seems similar blinkers exist to cutting down thousands of trees BEFORE planning permission is obtained. How do you trap and relocate sand lizards if you have trashed their habitat with heavy machinery BEFORE they are active?

        Wonder what would have been the outrage if that had been a fossil fuel company?

      • What does it change? Not a lot. Really – that’s seriously what you believe??
        Quote ‘“Placing stricter methane emission regulations on the fossil fuel industry will have the potential to reduce future global warming to a larger extent than previously thought.”
        Doesn’t that mean than now we have a better knowledge of methane sources, it should greatly increase the monitoring and regulation on the O&G industry to stop leaking methane? Do you believe that should not happen Paul et al, or that it would not be beneficial in climate change terms?

  3. Friends,
    Can the researchers take samples of snow from different levels in the antartica, Greenland n also the snow at various altitude to check for CO2 when it vaporises, like the dry ice which is also made with CO2 under certain conditions. This is just an hypothesis but like global warming this can be the other way leading us to ice age after several years or in the coming century.

    • Yes, it is really a logical.
      The cattle ( cow) , emits methane n also in the rice fields as well.

      Can any one give real time analysis data of the environment gases like the basic gas composition of atmospheric gas mix.mainly comprising of Nitrogen, oxygen n 78 percent n 20.8 -21percent oxygen ,rest all are comprising of CO2 , n other gases. Has this composition varied at different altitude or at ground or upper grond levels at any given time n environment conditions?

      For a particular time n place it might show some results but not all the time ,or how all aerobic lives can exists without proper oxygen.

      In my opinion this needs to be debated .

  4. I’m not sure why the headline emphasizes oil and gas when in fact the article simply refers to the fossil fuel industry. Coal gives off large amounts of methane when brought to the surface. The graphs in the article also show no difference in slope between pre- and post- fracking times, which suggests to me that fracking isn’t the cause of increased methane emissions.

      • Jack – the study that you site is not taken seriously by academics in this area. If fracking was so important why do you think that there is no obvious rate in change in methane emissions starting in around 2000? Try reading the Nature paper that Drill and Drop have linked to? Or don’t you want new findings so get in the way of your preconceived ideas?

        • SIMON MAYNARD ,

          What academics dont take this seriously, BILL and BEN the flower pot men ???????

          If you were to arrange a meeting of these so called , UNAMED academics, I would strongly suggest you not book a meeting hall bigger than a telephone box.

          Back in the real world, you’ll find that any person you ask, would much rather put their faith and trust in what is said by world leading scientists at NASA .

          Here’s something else from NASA, that I’m sure you’ll find educational .

        • Do not worry Simon.

          Jack has a blind spot regarding US fracking and tries to fill it with several different dubious links-and then claims because he has trawled the Internet and found such-it is the reality. He even tries to suggest that more than 90% of recoverable oil from shale, still not recovered, is in decline, totally ignoring the DEMAND fluctuations, that adjust price and will also then adjust production. On the same premise, maybe he feels China will continue to produce the same number of cars with demand down over 90%, to somehow show their car industry is robust?

          Seems Jack is more interested in denial than reality.

          • MARTIN,

            Thanks for your ” oppinion only ” backed up with the usual sweet nothing.

            I’ve very recently FULLY covered with you the topic regarding the amount of recoverable Oil and Gas in the USA ( please see forum posts 5th Feb 2020 Radioactive Water Disposal. )

            As forum members will note during that debate , when supplied with Jacks evidence, you played out your usual epic diverersionary tactics of completely changing the topic.

            Would you like Jack to cut and paste from the 5th Feb 2020 some of my responses , with supporting evidence ?????

            • Jack – I’m afraid Nature trumps tie Guardian in terms of reliability of reporting scientific studies.

              You still don’t seem to have explained why the paper that this article refers to shows no change in methane emissions when fracking started if as you believe fracking is such an important source of methane emissions

              • Thanks for your words of nothing SIMON ,

                Are you and MARTIN sat at the same desk , or are you both the same person ????????

                Your ability to duck and dive , twist words and try and deny the clear evidence is the identical approach that MARTIN has.

                From the information, LINKS provided , its simple ( childsplay )to follow through to your required information

                • Jack – thanks for confirming that you can’t explain how the graph in the Nature paper is consistent with your ridiculous notion that fracking is a massive contributor to methane emissions. Bright people change their mind when confronted with new evidence!

                • Jack you and Howarth both seem to like cherry picking. You cherry pick articles to back you instinct – Howarth cherry picks time frames and carbon isotopic compositions to support his arguments that coal is worse than natural gas.




                • Thanks Paul. I’ll work on the theory that more comprehensive, plausible and better argued evidence exists, taking into account both the pros and cons. Not that I’ll be holding my breath 😉

                • SIMON MAYNARD,

                  In response to the above LINK

                  AHH good old FRACK fanatic, Professor Quentin Fisher .

                  Tell me SIMON, is his still getting handsomely paid, sorry funded by the Oil and Gas industry ??????,?

                • SIMON MAYNARD,

                  In response to the last one of your above LINKS.

                  Let’s talk about the author Daniel Raimi

                  He talks a lot about the benefits and disadvantages of Fracking. You could say he takes a balanced approach …… BUT that can’t be so .

                  In his own words he says the economic benefits of Fracking in the USA are in general a positive one….. BUT he fails to take in to account the whopping financial elephant in the room , namely the endless multi billion $ bancruptcies and the 100s of billions of debt that the industry is currently saddled with ….. HE also fails to factor in how a bankrupt or debt ridden company will service the ongoing maintenance costs of orphaned wells, or any environmental costs decades or centuries in to the future .

                  This nursery school leval of basic economics should of been addressed and not avoided .

                  Dont take my word for it, its all there on the internet .

                  Please ask , if you find it difficult confirming anything I’ve said, as I will be delighted to put up the relevant LINKS

                • SIMON MAYNARD,

                  JUST TO CLARIFY to the readers , this is in response to the second of your above LINKS .

                  AHH good old FRACK fanatic, Professor Quentin Fisher .

                  Tell me SIMON, is his still getting handsomely paid, sorry funded by the Oil and Gas industry ??????,?

                • SIMON,

                  Not at all .

                  You put up 3 LINKS , I then open up the debate on the authors and their particular interests in the matter whether it be financial or other.

                • Oh dear!

                  Once again Jack seems to feel that his weird view of US fracking “failure” is the reality.

                  Just denial to create a false narrative, followed by over excitement when that is shown, and failure to answer Simon’s simple question but accusing others of ducking and diving!

                  The lack of common sense is staggering-because if US fracking has been such a failure-WHY WORRY??!! It will wither and disappear.

                  HOWEVER, with over 90% of identified reserves still not utilised, Jack knows it will not, and can howl at the moon as long as he likes but the moon will still be there.

                  Clear evidence??

                  “Shale’s transformation of the US economy” James Dean.

                  Read it and weep, Jack. (Oh sorry, forgot. There are some sources of information you are unable to access so they cease to exist! But, not to others fortunately.)

                • MARTIN,

                  Thanks for adding a absoltally nothing to this debate once again , except the usual diversionary tactics.

                  Your opinion full of nothing, backed up with nothing has been duly noted and filed in the usual place for future reference .

                  PS……..Must remember to invest in another postage stamp, your file notes on the back of this one are getting quite crowded .

                • Oh dear, again!

                  Jack becomes more abusive the more he/she/they are challenged.

                  But, still is unable to answer the simple question posed by Simon.

                  The defence mechanism? There is an elephant in the room-debt!

                  Ermm-that places Tesla in a similar position, except that is “alternative” debt so is okay??!!

                  Here in the UK, Jack, most people have debt. For some with a mortgage to purchase a house, a very large debt. As long as you can service that debt, no elephant, but a secure investment. Some will find they take on too much and have to rein in. That is life.

                  Same silly nonsense directed against INEOS a few days before Jim Radcliffe was declared the UKs wealthiest individual! The same song then reselected from the Jack internet jukebox.

                  Some good advice for you Jack, from Naomi:

                  “I don’t want you to panic. I want you to think.”

                  Fortunately, those who can, do. For those who can’t, there is always Jack.

          • MARTIN ,

            Although others will know this already , jack will explain and help you understand as you seem to have difficulty understanding very simple worldly things .

            Mortgage debt is debt with a physical asset behind it….Something the banks can snatch back equal to the value of the debt

            Debt ridden Fracking Companies, their worth can be nothing more than the value if your contribution to this page , ZERO…….
            With multi billion $ bancruptcies already taken place and Hundreds of BILLIONS of debt owing ….. PLUS the ongoing enviournmental and maintanece costs of orphaned wells for future generations running in to billions .

            How can ANY simple thinking human being compare this to ” mortgage ” debt ?????????

            • More help for MARTIN

              TESLA ……..UP 274% in 7 months .

              The industry you try and talk up , some of these companies have an individual share net worth lower than a sheet of Toilet Paper …… Not only have they slumped , they have been on their backsides for an eternaty .

            • MARTIN

              Let’s now get away from your usual diversionary tactics and get back to talking about the topic that counts .

              I say , Fracking in the USA has been shown to be nothing more than a toxic , enviournmentaly damaging, dangerous for human and animal health , debt ridden PONZI scheme.

              Let’s break this up and debate it section by section …..

              AND REMEMBER MARTIN, please back up anything you say with EVIDENCE .

              • So, Jack, companies which own the assets of oil below ground have no assets??? (Even in little old on shore UK the nonsense of that has been repeatedly demonstrated.)

                Strange, I thought Donald was just TODAY selling loads of it to India! Plenty to go at, still over 90% untapped. Sorry Jack, but looks like the forests in India may get protected and, as a result, the tigers. Maybe other oil/gas suppliers will just have to cut back on the costs of their lobbyists!? Plenty of $60k/year dish washing jobs in USA oil fields though. Change of career can be really refreshing.

                Yes, of course, some companies will not have acquired the best bits of ground in USA and will find they are exposed, either through that or other reasons.
                Others, will do very well. Others, such as Shell and BP, will realise they were too slow off the mark and will try and slot in late in the day at a premium, and will pay over the odds.

                Exactly the same as buying a house!

                (By the way, a bank can not snatch back a house equal to the value of the debt. The value of the house is determined by other factors, just as a business may be.)

                Oh, your comment about Tesla was equally revealing:

                “There are several good reasons to think Tesla should be more valuable than it was 6 months ago. BUT, there aren’t any that justify it’s shares more than tripling in price since then.”

                So, beware of Jack “explaining” anything. He/she/they are to economics what Vlad the Impaler was to forest management!

                Apart from the comment regarding Tesla, you have already had the EVIDENCE, Jack, or told where to find it. However, it is obvious that not only do you ignore it but subsequently someone claims, under your name, not to have any knowledge of it!

                Maybe best to ask little green jack, Big Blue Jack or little blue jack what they have done with it? Your filing system seems somewhat lacking.

                • Remember Ladies and Gentleman ……

                  MARTIN will only give you his oppinion on a topic, he will never back up anything he says with one single shred of evidence .

                  As I have said many times before and I know this may crush one of you long held fantasies , there is only one jackthelad operating on this site .

                • JEE WIZZ MARTIN ,

                  Talk about splitting hairs , you’ve already won an Oscar on that one .Do you really want to now, drive this mortgage topic forward ?????? Your only going to make people laugh .

                  Let’s PLEASE, PLEASE move away from your ENDLESS diversionary tactics that you are so famous for and start debating the topic counts “FRACKING .”

                • You been given the night shift now, Jack?? Or, taking into account the earth’s rotation, the day shift??

                  I thought you had been taken off that one when it previously exposed why you have certain blind spots regarding information available to us in UK. Never mind, maybe there is a better rate?

                  So, what was all that spluttering guff about Jack? (Do you get transferred onto other campaigns that requires you to post in several short splutters rather than one coherent attempt?)


                  Share price on 19/2/2020: $917.42
                  Share price on 24/2/2020: $799.91

                  Enough said?

                  You were talking the same irresponsible guff a short while ago, and I warned against such. I hope anyone reading will have followed my advice and not yours. You obviously have also ignored Naomi’s advice that I provided-and it shows. Shame really, I thought the future belongs to the young and we should consider what they say. Especially those with an education.

                  But, you can still continue to propose that oil companies with debt are doomed, whereas individuals are exempt (forgetting negative equity-Giggle it Jack-in which case Mr.Musk is okay but Tesla share holders are not-yet Tesla is “alternative” debt so not an issue at all!

                  So, Jack, you wish to move out of the mortgage debt blind alley you got yourself into? I can see why. In the UK most adults are pretty aware of the reality, so best to move off that ground.
                  I think you will also find that most people in UK are quite familiar with industrial sectors where all companies carry debt and some are successful and others are not. Maybe you are not familiar with competition within the “nasty” capitalist system, but perhaps you should acquaint yourself of the realities before you start wandering off into fantasy land that hardly exists anywhere in this world? You could also look at debt in the football sector. Quite illuminating.

                  So, Donald was selling non existing oil and gas to India yesterday??

                  Yep, all very sound and reasonable!! LOL

                  But, as you obviously fail to grasp the facts I will REPEAT one I have already provided:

                  “Shale plans lie behind Exxon sale in Malaysia.

                  Exxon Mobil (the world’s largest publicly traded oil company, valued at about $285 BILLION) is seeking to raise up to $3 billion by selling its offshore business in Malaysia as its focus shifts to shale production in the US.”

                  Similar information was provided regarding Shell, BP and INEOS.

                  But, Jack has his parallel fantasy world where such events and reality do not exist if he refuses to accept them! Bless.

              • MARTIN

                We have been through this an endless number of times. Your acting like a poorly programmed computer BOT

                ” Assets below ground ” Haha , surely your not talking Shale assets ??????

                With an endless stream of multi billion $ bancruptcies and hundreds of billions of debt owed by current US fracking companies … What marvelous, profitable assets are you talking about , below ground ??????

                Let’s also not forget these huge debts have been gained in a country that has almost ZERO fracking regulations, where almost anything goes.

                MARTIN , someone will write a book one day about how fracking was the biggest PONZI scheme in US history.




            • Jack, I think you’ll find that the assets of any company that any of the companies that go but are considerable. The wells that they have tend to go on producing for years and they can also be re-fracked at a low cost. Both of these income streams can easily pay for decomissioning the wells, which is pretty easy and cheap for onland assets

      • Good news Jack. This means that post peak gas / peak oil this source of methane will decline and eventually be eliminated. If it had been naturally released fossil methane there would be no decline post peak gas. Trebles all round!

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