Research Results

Methane emissions from United States natural gas gathering and processing

08/18/15 – Environmental Science and Technology

New facility-level methane (CH4) emissions measurements obtained from 114 natural gas gathering facilities and 16 processing plants in 13 U.S. states were combined with facility counts obtained from state and national databases in a Monte Carlo simulation to estimate CH4 emissions from U.S. natural gas gathering and processing operations. Total annual CH4 emissions of 2,421 (+245/-237) Gg were estimated for all U.S. gathering and processing operations, which represents a CH4 loss rate of 0.47% (±0.05%) when normalized by 2012 CH4 production. Over 90% of those emissions were attributed to normal operation of gathering facilities (1,697 +189/-185 Gg) and processing plants (506 +55/-52 Gg), with the balance attributed to gathering pipelines and processing plant routine maintenance and upsets. The median CH4 emissions estimate for processing plants is a factor of 1.7 lower than the 2012 EPA Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) estimate, with the difference due largely to fewer reciprocating compressors, and a factor of 3.0 higher than that reported under the EPA Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. Since gathering operations are currently embedded within the production segment of the EPA GHGI, direct comparison to our results is complicated. However, the study results suggest that CH4 emissions from gathering are substantially higher than the current EPA GHGI estimate and are equivalent to 30% of the total net CH4 emissions in the natural gas systems of the GHGI. Because CH4 emissions from most gathering facilities are not reported under the current rule and not all source categories are reported for processing plants, the total CH4 emissions from gathering and processing reported under the EPA GHGRP (180 Gg) represents only 14% of that tabulated in the EPA GHGI and 7% of that predicted from this study.
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Measurements of methane emissions from natural gas gathering facilities and processing plants: measurement methods

05/07/15 – Atmospheric Measurement Techniques

Increased natural gas production in recent years has spurred intense interest in methane (CH4) emissions associated with its production, gathering, processing, transmission, and distribution. Gathering and processing facilities (G&P facilities) are unique in that the wide range of gas sources (shale, coal-bed, tight gas, conventional, etc.) results in a wide range of gas compositions, which in turn requires an array of technologies to prepare the gas for pipeline transmission and distribution. We present an overview and detailed description of the measurement method and analysis approach used during a 20-week field campaign studying CH4 emissions from natural gas G&P facilities between October 2013 and April 2014. Dual-tracer flux measurements and on-site observations were used to address the magnitude and origins of CH4 emissions from these facilities. The use of a second tracer as an internal standard revealed plume-specific uncertainties in the measured emission rates of 20–47%, depending upon plume classification. Combining downwind methane, ethane (C2H6), carbon monoxide (CO), carbon dioxide (CO2), and tracer gas measurements with on-site tracer gas release allowed for quantification of facility emissions and, in some cases, a more detailed picture of source locations.

Measurements of Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Gathering Facilities and Processing Plants: Measurement Results

02/10/15 – Environmental Science and Technology

Facility-level methane emissions were measured at 114 gathering facilities and 16 processing plants in the United States natural gas system. At gathering facilities, the measured methane emission rates ranged from 0.7 to 700 kg per hour (kg/h) (0.6 to 600 standard cubic feet per minute (scfm)). Normalized emissions (as a percentage of total methane throughput) were less than 1% for 85 gathering facilities, and 19 had normalized emissions less than 0.1%. The range of methane emissions rates for processing plants was 3 to 600 kg/h (3 to 524 scfm), corresponding to normalized methane emissions rates.
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