Emissions from Shale Gas Exceed Those from Coal, Study Says


Natural gas extracted from shale deposits by a process known as hydraulic fracturing generates more greenhouse gas emissions over a 20-year period than conventional gas, oil, and coal, according to a Cornell University study.

Researchers said that during the lifespan of the average shale-gas drilling operation — in which a mix of water, chemicals, and sand is pumped into the ground to release natural gas trapped in shale formations — about 4 to 8 percent of the total gas production leaks into the atmosphere in the form of methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.

While methane does not linger in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide, over the course of two decades the total carbon footprint of drilling for and burning shale gas is at least 20 percent greater than the footprint for coal production and combustion, and perhaps twice as great, said Robert Howarth, the lead author of the study, published in the journal Climatic Change Letters.

Article appearing courtesy Yale Environment 360.

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Yale Environment 360 is an online magazine offering opinion, analysis, reporting and debate on global environmental issues. We feature original articles by scientists, journalists, environmentalists, academics, policy makers, and business people, as well as multimedia content and a daily digest of major environmental news. Yale Environment 360 is published by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and Yale University. We are funded in part by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. The opinions and views expressed in Yale Environment 360 are those of the authors and not of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies or of Yale University.

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