Thursday, September 01, 2016

NASA: Fracking Is Source of Massive Methane "Hot Spot"


This map shows anomalous U.S. methane emissions (or how much the emissions differ from average background concentrations) for 2003 to 2009, as measured by the European Space Agency's SCIAMACHY instrument. The Four Corners area [circled]—the area where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet—is the only red spot on the map. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Michigan; click to enlarge)

by Gaius Publius

Methane, fracking, and global warming — like three musketeers, all for one and one for all.

As anyone who reads here regularly knows, methane (CH4) is a greenhouse gas — it traps the earth's heat — just like CO2. When it's burned (for power-generation, for example) it's emitted into the atmosphere as CO2 and H2O (water vapor, another greenhouse gas, by the way). While methane is shorter-lived than CO2, which is stable in the atmosphere and is only drawn out slowly by natural processes, when methane breaks down in the air, it becomes CO2 and other products, including water vapor, which again are also greenhouse gases. So methane, even after breaking down, does long-term damage.

The lifespan of methane in the lower atmosphere is estimated at about ten years and 12 years in the stratosphere, but its greenhouse effect in that brief time is over 100 times the effect of CO2 over the same period.

So, not only is burning methane bad for the global climate (Ms. Clinton, take note), but direct methane leaks are terrible. If the "greenhouse effect" of CO2 (its "global warming potential") is indexed as "1", the greenhouse effect of methane over 100-year timespan is about 30, and and over a 20-year timespan, about 85.
Methane in the Earth's atmosphere is a strong greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 29 over a 100-year period. This means that a methane emission will have 29 times the impact on temperature of a carbon dioxide emission of the same mass over the following 100 years. Methane has a large effect (100 times as strong as carbon dioxide) for a brief period (having a half-life of 7 years in the atmosphere), whereas carbon dioxide has a small effect for a long period (over 100 years). Because of this difference in effect and time period, the global warming potential of methane over a 20-year time period is 86.
There are many sources of direct methane emissions, including animal husbandry (consider how much beef is consumed in just the U.S. each day; live cows emit methane almost hourly) and also melting Arctic permafrost, both undersea and on land (there's a massive amount of methane sequestered in the Arctic, most of it still there ... for now).

But a new and important source of methane is our increasing dependence on "natural gas" as a fuel for power generation. It's true that burning methane provides more energy per unit of CO2 emission, but the CO2 it emits is still CO2. In addition, methane leaks at every point in the production and usage process, from well heads to pipelines, to facilities that "liquefy" it for long-distance transport, to the transportation vehicles themselves, to delivery to customers, and finally at sites where it's ultimately burned. Every step of the process produces methane leakage.

But the most important source of methane leakage is from the fracking that's increasingly used to extract it.

Put simply, fracking doesn't just cause earthquakes and water pollution. Fracking causes large methane leaks as well.

NASA: Fracking Is Causing the Largest Methane Leak in the Country

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the "four corners" region of the American Southwest, where Arizona, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico meet (see map above). We've known for years that there's a massive (visible from space) methane "hot spot" in that region. Now we know why. Fracking.

Via Common Dreams:
NASA Study Nails Fracking as Source of Massive Methane 'Hot Spot'

The 2,500-square mile plume is said to be the largest concentration of the potent greenhouse gas in the country

A NASA study released on Monday confirms that a methane "hot spot" in the Four Corners region of the American southwest is directly related to leaks from natural gas extraction, processing, and distribution.

The 2,500-square mile plume, first detected in 2003 and confirmed by NASA satellite data in October 2014, is said to be the largest concentration of atmospheric methane in the U.S. and is more than triple a standard ground-based estimate. Methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a highly-efficient greenhouse gas—84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, and a significant contributor to global warming.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and funded primarily by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), surveyed industry sources including gas processing facilities, storage tanks, pipeline leaks, and well pads, as well as a coal mine venting shaft.

It found that leaks from only 10 percent of the individual methane sources are contributing to half of the emissions, confirming the scientists' suspicions that the mysterious hotspot was connected to the high level of fracking in the region.

There are more than 20,000 oil and gas wells operating in the San Juan Basin, where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that overall annual gas production in the basin is as much as 1.3 trillion cubic feet, mostly from coal bed methane and shale formations.

"NASA's finding that the oil and gas industry is primarily responsible for the 'hot spot' is not surprising," stated the Western Environmental Law Center, a nonprofit public interest law firm. "In fact, the researchers found only one large source of methane not related to oil and gas operations: venting from the San Juan coal mine. This discovery renders attempts to point the finger at other potential emissions sources, like coal outcrops and landfills, definitively refuted."
The article goes on to detail "how problematic current estimates of methane emissions from oil and gas operations are" — meaning that the EPA's estimates of methane emissions (leaks) tend to minimize the problem.

So your first bottom line is, we're not only burning ourselves back to the Stone Age, we're fracking ourselves there too.

Hillary Clinton's Transition Team Is Headed by Ken Salazar, a Major Fracking Proponent...

... and it contains other major fracking proponents and evangelists as well, such as Heather Zichal. Which is your second bottom line.

First, a taste of Ken Salazar's interest in fracking. Note that Salazar was Obama's Interior Secretary:
Former Obama official: Fracking has never been an environmental problem

HOUSTON — Former U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said Wednesday morning [February 5, 2014] that he believes hydraulic fracturing is safe, and the energy industry should work to convince the public that it doesn’t pose a safety threat.

Salazar spoke in Houston at the North American Prospect Expo, a three-day conference where landowners from around the globe look to make deals with oil, gas and pipeline companies.

“From my opinion and from what I’ve seen … I believe hydraulic fracking is, in fact, safe,” Salazar said.

Salazar said the oil and gas industry must work to educate the public of the technology and “make sure people are not scared.”

“We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone,” Salazar said. “We need to make sure that story is told.”
Now, on Heather Zichal, former top Obama energy aide, from Steve Horn at DeSmogBlog:
Heather Zichal, Former Obama Energy Aide, Named to Board of Fracked Gas Exports Giant Cheniere

Heather Zichal, former Obama White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, may soon walk out of the government-industry revolving door to become a member of the board of directors for fracked gas exports giant Cheniere, who nominated her to serve on the board.

The announcement, made through Cheniere's U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Form 8-K and its Schedule 14A, comes just as a major class-action lawsuit was filed against the board of the company by stockholders.

In reaction to the lawsuit, Cheniere has delayed its annual meeting. At that meeting, the company's stockholders will vote on the Zichal nomination.

The class-action lawsuit was filed by plaintiff and stockholder James B. Jones, who alleges the board gave stock awards to CEO Charif Souki in defiance of both a stockholders' vote and the company's by-laws.

Souki — a central character in Gregory Zuckerman's book “The Frackers“ — became the highest paid CEO in the U.S. as a result of the maneuver, raking in $142 million in 2013, $133 million of which came from stock awards.

Zichal was nominated to join Cheniere's audit committee of the board, and will be paid $180,000 per year for the gig if elected.
Notice that paycheck for sitting on Cheniere's board — $180,000 per year. Does that smell like "thank you" money? It looks like "thank you" money as well. Zichal's anodyne Wikipedia page touts her this way: "A Democratic political operative and energy industry lobbyist ... said [Zichal] was 'absolutely dogged in her pursuit of gaining consensus with external stakeholders'" while pursuing the administration's (methane-centric) "clean energy plan." You don't get a reward from a fracking and natural gas giant for not advocating their interests.

And now Heather Zichal, Ken Salazar and several pro-methane others are a key part of corporate-leaning Hillary Clinton's transition team.

Which brings us to where we started. Methane, fracking, and global warming — like three musketeers, all for one and one for all. Want to stop global warming? In the U.S., you have to first stop fracking — and those who want to enable it. Remember, anti-Sanders activists — the Becky Bond Rule applies here as well.


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At 11:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If all the Bernie supporters or progressives Democrats supported the Green party's Jill Stein to show what they want and their opposition to TPP & fracking, then Hillary would suffer consequences for making such decisions, but with this "lesser of 2" logic you we only be represented to defeat Trump, and to quote him; then the Dems will say "see you in 4 years" as they go towards the corporate. The Nose knows!

At 7:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Anonymous. Let's vote for Jill Stein so Trump will win. That'll teach the Dems to ignore Ralph Nader. Oops. Had flashback. In your case, The Nose smells.

At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hahahah! Al Gore lost because he ran to the right of rightwing Bill Clinton. Lieberman was a poke in the eye to anyone on the left.

Hillary is doing the same damn thing and the Democratic party needs to be punished. The USA will survive either one of these incredibly terrible candidates. The USA will also survive millions of votes for Stein and Johnson.

At 5:21 AM, Blogger jvb2718 said...

Ah. Near-sighted again. Both the piece and the replys.

Gore lost for a cornucopia of reasons, not the least of which is he ran to the right of the (at the time) rightmost D prez ever, ran a cowardly and lazy campaign against a true moron, nom'd a rightwing corrupt neocon fascist as veep and took a dive in the face of overt election fraud. Why it's as if the man never really wanted to be prez.
Nader was irrelevant. It was fraud and gore merely shrunk away from it.

The us of a(dhd) will NOT survive long and truly deserves to die. No way to predict when or which scandal/outrage/agression/economicmeltdown/ecologicaldisaster will kill us/US, but one will. And you can bet your last toilet paper dollar that no D or R prez will even try to prevent/avoid it as long as money is involved... and no congress will ever let anything change the current fascist/corrupt arrangement with corporations and the wealthiest .01%.

So you might as well vote for Stein and down-ticket greens. It won't hurt and it won't help, but your conscience will be better off for it.

As far as atmospheric carbon, it's already too late and humankind is summarily incapable of dealing with it. Too many humans and too much devotion to capitalism mean nothing will ever change until the planet becomes untenable and most of the humans eventually die. Fracking will speed the process but it'd happen either way. It's a resonant, runaway process now. Nothing will stop it. Certainly not humankind.

People born after the millenium will probably both see and be victims at the end.

At 6:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd chime in with this:

Though it's, at present, a rather slow process, it's a runaway (maybe walking away would be a better characterization today), resonant process.

No need to bend over and kiss your tuchus bye-bye yet... but that time SHALL approach. And each day it'll proceed a little faster.

And humans both cannot and will not do one goddamn thing about it.


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