A new study finds that oil and natural gas producers are not responsible for a global increase in methane emissions.
According to the report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, increased emissions come primarily from wetlands and agriculture, not oil and natural gas producers. The NOAA report comes after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it will regulate methane emissions from existing oil and natural gas production.
“Currently, increasing methane levels are caused not by fossil fuel production, but rather by wetlands or, more likely, agriculture,” lead author Hinrich Schaefer told Climatewire.
During the study, researchers evaluated thermogenic methane associated with oil and natural gas development, as well as biogenic methane related to natural causes or agriculture. The study found that, even during the shale boom, thermogenic gas did not increase.
“We reconstruct the global history of CH4 (methane) and its stable carbon isotopes from ice cores, archived air and a global network of monitoring stations. A box-model analysis suggests that diminishing thermogenic emissions, probably from the fossil fuel industry, and/or variations in the hydroxyl CH4-sink caused the CH4-plateau. Thermogenic emissions didn’t resume to cause the renewed CH4-rise after 2006, which contradicts emission inventories. Post-2006 source increases are predominantly biogenic, outside the Arctic, and arguably more consistent with agriculture than wetlands. If so, mitigating the CH4-emissions must be balanced with the need for food production.”
The findings align with analysis by the National Economic Research Associates, which said that the EPA’s projected benefits from its gas regulations are “highly uncertain and very likely overstated.” The NERA also stated that the federal agency’s research lacks the appropriate peer review necessary for use in supporting regulatory policy.