New Mexico’s natural gas producers have just created the country’s largest greenhouse gas disaster in the United States. You can’t smell it or see it from the ground, but NASA scientists just announced that “leaks” from natural gas producers in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin have created a 2,500 square-mile cloud of methane hovering over the Four Corners.
In each of the seven years studied from 2003-2009, the area released about 0.59 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere. This is almost 3.5 times the estimate for the same area in the European Union’s widely used Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research.
And it’s not like we need more methane.
Pound for pound, the comparative impact of CH4 on climate change is over 20 times greater than CO2over a 100-year period. – EPA.gov
Satellite data shows that the methane cloud hovering over the San Juan Basin is three times larger than had been measured from ground-based readings. The cloud half the size of the State of Connecticut – and no one noticed until now.
Just so you know how big a deal this is, the scientists ignored it for years because the assumed something this big and unusual had to come from an equipment malfunction.
“We didn’t focus on it because we weren’t sure if it was a true signal or an instrument error,” Frankenberg said.
The study’s lead author, Eric Kort of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, noted the study period predates the widespread use of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, near the hot spot. This indicates the methane emissions should not be attributed to fracking but instead to leaks in natural gas production and processing equipment in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin, which is the most active coalbed methane production area in the country.
Natural gas is 95-98 percent methane. Methane is colorless and odorless, making leaks hard to detect without scientific instruments.