Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Princeton researchers find old gas wells leaking methane

"What surprised me was that every well we measured had some methane coming out," said Professor Michael Celia.
Princeton University researchers have uncovered a previously unknown, and possibly substantial, source of the greenhouse gas methane to the Earth's atmosphere, writes
John Sullivan in News at Princeton.
"After testing a sample of abandoned oil and natural gas wells in northwestern Pennsylvania, the researchers found that many of the old wells leaked substantial quantities of methane. Because there are so many abandoned wells nationwide (a recent study from Stanford University concluded there were roughly 3 million abandoned wells in the United States)
the researchers believe the overall contribution of leaking wells could be significant.

Alana Miller (left), a Princeton senior majoring in civil and environmental engineering, and Mary Kang, then a doctoral researcher in civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, conduct research that found abandoned oil and gas wells emit methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Kang, now at Stanford University, is the lead author of a recent journal article describing the findings. (Photo courtesy of Robert Jackson, Stanford University)

"The researchers said their findings identify a need to make measurements across a wide variety of regions in Pennsylvania but also in other states with a long history of oil and gas development such as California and Texas.
"The research indicates that this is a source of methane that should not be ignored," said Michael Celia, the Theodore Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton. "We need to determine how significant it is on a wider basis."
"Methane is the unprocessed form of natural gas. Scientists say that after carbon dioxide, methane is the most important contributor to the greenhouse effect, in which gases in the atmosphere trap heat that would otherwise radiate from the Earth. Pound for pound, methane has about 20 times the heat-trapping effect as carbon dioxide. Methane is produced naturally, by processes including decomposition, and by human activity such as landfills and oil and gas production."

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