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I find the DK article suffers from typical hyperbole and a lack of the bigger framework.

The findings are based on a measurement on one day in an area that was under development at that time. In measuring time-series, that's a single measurement, and should be treated as such. This does not dismiss the findings, but they should not be enthusiastically extrapolated either. The measuring method, although valid, also indicates limitations for creating a periodical time-series.

With the exception of studies performed by the industry, which predictably find much lower rates of methane release in both conventional and unconventional wells, there exists to my knowledge no independent study that has monitored a significant sample of unconventional gas wells for an extended period of time, during either the phase of construction or steady production. Most will agree that such independent monitoring would be prudent as unconventional gas continues to expand and encroach towards less inhabited terrains. But in a controversial topic like this, even the counting of the number of wells becomes disputed.

Commenter LakeSuperior observes in the comments of the DK diary:

Daily Kos: NOAA Investigation Finds Massive Methane Emissions from Utah Fracking: 6% to 12% Lost to Atmosphere

Nothing in this particular scientific investigation directly measures emissions rates of specific pieces of oil and gas process equipment in the Uintah basin field under discussion.   Any discussion of what emission factors EPA used in its most recent methane and greenhouse gas emission inventory has to be related to specific factors applicable to specific pieces of equipment and specific operations.  

As a result, your 'now clear' declaration that EPA's emission inventory is 'far below realistic values' is either premature or does not address specifically what emission factors you are challenging.  

No part of the NOAA work can distinguish between the different process emission sources at well pads and other related facilities, such as what portion of the atmospheric methane increase detected is attributable to production operations and what portion of it is attributable to well construction and completion operations (as distinguished from production operations).

Anyway, the game looks rigged to me. Methane releases do not tally in the CO2 emissions and Obama's policy are guided to reduce CO2 emissions due to increasing shale gas production. After which it is not unlikely that shale gas production will decrease, and the next presidencies will be faced with sharply increasing CO2 emissions again.

by Bjinse on Fri Aug 9th, 2013 at 06:41:58 AM EST
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Bjinse, you're putting the cart before the horse that has already left the barn.  

Goes without saying that this is a very preliminary result, and should be treated as one measurement of a time series. That the same result after three months of every other day flights would be far more significant.

That the same results from direct measurement of all the different processes at the source would be seriously more significant.

But we're trying to analyze, with very limited funding, a technology which has already been allowed to expand at incredibly high levels of new installations, before any actual independent testing was done.

For an industry which is allowed to bypass current environmental law. For an industry which is allowed to keep the chemicals used secret. For a technology and a resource which is already a known polluter to a very high degree.

The object of a civil society is to embark on such serious, expensive testing, BEFORE the vast deployment of such a potentially dangerous technology.

Under those circumstances, including the poor likelihood of finding sufficient funding, ANY reputable data point is all the more valuable, EVEN if it's only a data point.

Bjinse (from the link):

Practically, Obama committed himself to a 5 percent decrease up to 2020. A cynical person could comment that bit more fracking should do the job.

Heh. Double Heh.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaļs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 9th, 2013 at 08:25:58 AM EST
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PS. Their methodology is absolutely standard for atmospheric science, especially when speaking of a specific basin which contains some 1% of the entire US wellheads.

And from the Salt Lake paper cited by oui, there's this:

The study based its findings on measurements recorded during a four-hour window Feb. 3, a calm, cloudless day that was perfect for measuring methane concentrations. There was almost no snow on the ground so the boundary layer over the basin was unusually high for winter, which allowed gas field emissions to mix evenly with the air, Sweeney said.

The basin's oil and gas infrastructure serves 6,000 wells that account for 1 percent of the nation's natural gas production.

The team found it leaked 60 tons of natural gas an hour during the Feb. 3 window.

"Most days we measured concentrations far greater than what we reported in the paper," Sweeney said. The new study was not designed to determine points of leakage.

To sum up, fracking should have to prove it's safety prior to implementation, rather than society has to prove its danger after the fact.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaļs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 9th, 2013 at 09:28:40 AM EST
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I don't need convincing of the virtues of the precautionary principle. Which obviously needs to be applied to the adoption of slickwater fracking for 'unconventional' gas reservoirs in shales.
by Bjinse on Fri Aug 9th, 2013 at 10:58:43 AM EST
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that's a single measurement, and should be treated as such

When a single measurement is wildly off the previously assumed average (6-12% vs. the 1% in an EPA report), the minimum treatment is to call for better and more monitoring. Apparently, these scientists themselves have newer, still to be analysed measurements (my emphasis):

CIRES, NOAA observe significant methane leaks in a Utah natural gas field

Karion, Sweeney and their co-authors continue to analyze methane and other emissions data gathered in Uintah Basin, in 2012 and 2013, and from recent scientific flights through other oil and gas production regions.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 9th, 2013 at 04:47:54 PM EST
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