Other Publications

Shale gas production: potential versus actual greenhouse gas emissions

by O'Sullivan, F. and S. Paltsev
Environmental Research Letters, 7(4): 044030, 2012

(MIT News Story)


Estimates of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shale gas production and use are controversial. Here we assess the level of GHG emissions from shale gas well hydraulic fracturing operations in the United States during 2010. Data from each of the approximately 4000 horizontal shale gas wells brought online that year are used to show that about 900 Gg CH4 of potential fugitive emissions were generated by these operations, or 228 Mg CH4 per well—a figure inappropriately used in analyses of the GHG impact of shale gas. In fact, along with simply venting gas produced during the completion of shale gas wells, two additional techniques are widely used to handle these potential emissions: gas flaring and reduced emission 'green' completions. The use of flaring and reduced emission completions reduce the levels of actual fugitive emissions from shale well completion operations to about 216 Gg CH4, or 50 Mg CH4 per well, a release substantially lower than several widely quoted estimates. Although fugitive emissions from the overall natural gas sector are a proper concern, it is incorrect to suggest that shale gas-related hydraulic fracturing has substantially altered the overall GHG intensity of natural gas production.

© 2012 the Authors

Full article available here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044030