Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure

Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure.

Natural gas is seen by many as the future of American energy: a fuel
that can provide energy independence and reduce greenhouse gas
emissions in the process. However, there has also been confusion about
the climate implications of increased use of natural gas for electric
power and transportation. We propose and illustrate the use of
technology warming potentials as a robust and transparent way to
compare the cumulative radiative forcing created by alternative
technologies fueled by natural gas and oil or coal by using the best
available estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from each fuel cycle
(i.e., production, transportation and use). We find that a shift to
compressed natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles leads
to greater radiative forcing of the climate for 80 or 280 yr,
respectively, before beginning to produce benefits. Compressed natural
gas vehicles could produce climate benefits on all time frames if the
well-to-wheels CH4 leakage were capped at a level 45–70% below current
estimates. By contrast, using natural gas instead of coal for electric
power plants can reduce radiative forcing immediately, and reducing
CH4 losses from the production and transportation of natural gas would
produce even greater benefits. There is a need for the natural gas
industry and science community to help obtain better emissions data
and for increased efforts to reduce methane leakage in order to
minimize the climate footprint of natural gas.

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