EPA Estimates of Bad Things from Fracking Only 80% Off
According to two industry groups, the API and the ANGA, the EPA is a tad off in their big scary accusation of methane emissions due to hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”, which, of course, is the new technology behind a hydrocarbons (and jobs) boom here in North America and the new Public Enemy Number 1 for environmentalists.
Methane emissions from hydraulically fractured wells are 50 percent lower than estimates found in a 2010 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), according to survey results released Monday by the American Petroleum Institute (API) and America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA).
The API-ANGA study found the venting of methane into the atmosphere during liquids unloading – a technique to remove water and other liquids from the wellbore to improve the flow of natural gas — is 86 percent lower than EPA’s estimates.
EPA had estimated that liquids unloading accounted for 51 percent of EPA’s total “Natural Gas Systems” methane emissions in the 2010 inventory. Applying emission factors based on ANGA/API data reduces the calculated emissions for this source by 86 percent, from 4.5 million metric tons to 637,766 metric tons of methane.
The level of emissions from well re-fracturing, also known as a workover, were found to be 72 percent lower in the API-ANGA study versus the EPA estimates, and well re-fracture rates to be significantly lower than EPA estimated. Data was gathered for re-fracture rates for unconventional wells in two phases, with the first phase collecting data for all well types, while the second phase targeted unconventional wells.
Arcane stuff, right? Maybe but this tussle will impact your and your children’s standard of living profoundly. If we frack, we have lots of cheap energy to light our homes, power our vehicles and make US manufacturing globally competitive. If we do not frack, energy costs will be higher than they need to be, which means inefficiency and lack of competitiveness, which ultimately means lower living standards. If the EPA can muster any pretense – under executive branch leadership that will allow it – they will shut fracking down to any extent it can.
If you were a super-cynic, I guess you would dismiss this as industry associations/lobbyists shamelessly manipulating science in the service of their members’ interest. I guess, but you could just as easily say that the EPA was a shameless government bureaucracy manipulating science in the name of ever-increasing government power.
Anyway, the EPA is saying fracking is very dangerous and industry is saying the EPA can’t do the science correctly. Scientifically quantifiable arm-wrestles like this tend to get ironed out. We’ll see.