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US Energy Industry Gas Leaks Are Triple the Official Figures, Study Finds

Leaks of heat-trapping methane – about 3% of gas produced in US – cost $9.3bn yearly in climate damage, but the problem is fixable

March 13, 2024 | Source: The Guardian | by Associated Press

US oil and natural gas wells, pipelines and compressors are spewing three times the amount of the potent heat-trapping gas methane as the government has determined, causing $9.3bn in yearly climate damage, a new comprehensive study calculates.

But because more than half of these methane emissions are coming from a tiny number of oil and gas sites, 1% or less, this means the problem is both worse than the government has determined but also fairly fixable, said the lead author of a study in the journal Nature.

The same issue is happening globally. Large methane emissions events around the world detected by satellites grew 50% in 2023 compared with 2022 with more than 5m metric tons spotted in major fossil fuel leaks, the International Energy Agency reported on Wednesday in its Global Methane Tracker 2024 report. World methane emissions rose slightly in 2023 to 120m metric tons, the report said.

“This is really an opportunity to cut emissions quite rapidly with targeted efforts at these highest-emitting sites,” said lead author Evan Sherwin, an energy and policy analyst at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab who wrote the study while at Stanford University. “If we can get this roughly 1% of sites under control, then we’re halfway there because that’s about half of the emissions in most cases.”