The University of Texas at Austin is leading a research team in what the school calls "a major field study to measure methane emissions from natural gas production," which it hopes to complete by January. The study, launched in May and including the Barnett Shale in North Texas, is directly measuring emissions at sites, including hydraulically fractured wells. "A greater understanding of the amount of methane emitted into the atmosphere can better inform sound policies and management of emissions from well sites," the school said in a news release Wednesday. Methane is the primary component of natural gas and is a powerful greenhouse gas. Investigators, initially Robert Howath at Cornell University, have asserted that natural gas can be a worse GHG source than coal, based largely on the impact of unburned methane emissions throughout the production and transmission process.
"This study is unparalleled in its scope and approach," said David Allen, principal investigator and director of the Cockrell School of Engineering's Center for Energy and Environmental Resources. Participating are nine gas producers, including Fort Worth-based XTO Energy, two environmental testing firms and the Environmental Defense Fund. The school said Allen has disclosed outside interests in accordance with UT's conflict of interest policies. The school was embarrassed this summer when it was learned that a study of hydraulic fracturing was led by professor Charles Groat, who did not disclose that he serves on the board of a large gas producer.
-- Jim Fuquay