Figuring out methane's role in the climate puzzle

July 9, 2014

The U.S. may be on the verge of an economy driven by methane, the primary component of natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal and is undergoing a production boom. It has poised the country as a top fuel producer globally, but recent research is casting serious doubts over just how climate-friendly it is, according to an article in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society.

In the article, Jeff Johnson, a senior correspondent at C&EN, explains that when burned as a fuel to produce electricity, emits about half as much carbon dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas, as . But not all methane gets burned as fuel. Some of the gas is released, either through leaks or intentional venting from oil and gas wells, into the atmosphere. Although it is present in much smaller amounts in the atmosphere compared to CO2—the primary target for climate change regulations—methane has 86 times more global warming potential. And estimates vary significantly over just how much is escaping into the air.

To get a better handle on the methane picture, researchers are planning more detailed studies to estimate the gas's emissions from oil and gas operations. In parallel, the Environmental Protection Agency, which has so far been reluctant to directly regulate methane emissions, plans to review the situation. If deemed necessary, the agency would propose new regulations by 2016.

Explore further: US to tackle methane in climate change push (Update)

More information: "Methane's Role in Climate Change" - cen.acs.org/articles/92/i27/Methanes-Role-Climate-Change.html

Related Stories

Study shows bacteria combat dangerous gas leaks

April 28, 2014

Bacteria could mop up naturally-occurring and man-made leaks of natural gases before they are released into the atmosphere and cause global warming - according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Control methane now, greenhouse gas expert warns

May 14, 2014

(Phys.org) —As the shale gas boom continues, the atmosphere receives more methane, adding to Earth's greenhouse gas problem. A Cornell ecology professor fears that we may not be many years away from an environmental tipping ...

Recommended for you

Isolation of Fe(IV) decamethylferrocene salts

August 29, 2016

(Phys.org)—Ferrocene is the model compound that students often learn when they are introduced to organometallic chemistry. It has an iron center that is coordinated to the π electrons in two cyclopentadienyl rings. (C5H5- ...

Bringing artificial enzymes closer to nature

August 29, 2016

Scientists at the University of Basel, ETH Zurich, and NCCR Molecular Systems Engineering have developed an artificial metalloenzyme that catalyses a reaction inside of cells without equivalent in nature. This could be a ...

New method developed for producing some metals

August 25, 2016

The MIT researchers were trying to develop a new battery, but it didn't work out that way. Instead, thanks to an unexpected finding in their lab tests, what they discovered was a whole new way of producing the metal antimony—and ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.