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Howarth Et Al. -- National Climate Assessment

Howarth Et Al. -- National Climate Assessment

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Fig. 1. Observedglobal meantemperature from1900to2009and projectedfuturetemperatureundervariousscenarios ofcontrolling methane +blackcarbon(BC) andcarbondioxide,alone and in combination. An increaseto1.5
o
to 2.0
o
C above the 1890-1910 baseline(illustratedbythe yellow bar)poses highriskofpassing atipping point andmoving theEarthintoanalternatestatefor theclimatesystem. ReprintedfromShindell etal.(2012).
MethaneEmissionsfromNaturalGasSystems
BackgroundPaperPrepared fortheNational ClimateAssessment Reference number 2011-0003Robert Howarth (CornellUniversity),Drew Shindell (NASAGoddardSpaceInstitute), ReneeSantoro(Cornell University), Anthony Ingraffea(Cornell University), NathanPhillips(BostonUniversity), andAmyTownsend-Small (University ofCincinnati)February 25,2012Thepast fewyears haveseenmajorchanges bothin our understanding of theimportance of methane as adriver of global climatechangeandinthe importance of natural gassystems as asource of atmospheric methane. Here, wesummarize thecurrent state of knowledge, relying onpeer-reviewedliterature.Methane isthesecondlargest contributortohuman-caused globalwarmingaftercarbondioxide. Hansen and Sato(2004) andHansen et al. (2007) suggestedthat awarming oftheEarthto1.8
o
C abovethe 1890-1910 baselinemaytrigger alargeandrapidincreaseintherelease ofmethane fromthe arcticduetomelting opermafrost. Whilethere is awide rangein boththemagnitude andtiming of projectedcarbonreleasefromthawing permafrost intheliterature(e.g. Schaefer et al., 2011), warmingconsistentlyleadstogreaterrelease. Thisrelease willthereforeinturncause apositive feedback of acceleratedglobal warming(Zimov et al. 2006).Shindell etal. (2012)notedthat theclimatesystemismoreimmediatelyresponsivetochangesinmethane (and blackcarbon)emissionsthancarbondioxide emissions(Fig. 1).They predictedthat unlessemissions ofmethane and blackcarbonarereducedimmediately, theEarth willwarmto1.5
o
C by2030 andto2.0
o
C by 2045to2050whether ornotcarbon
 
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Fig. 2. Human-controlledsourcesof atmosphericmethane fromthe UnitedStates for2009,based on emission estimates fromthe U.S.Environmental Protection Agencyin2011. ReprintedfromHowarthetal.(2012).
dioxide emissions are reduced. Reducing methane andblackcarbon emissions,evenif carbondioxideisnotcontrolled, would significantlyslowthe rate ofglobalwarming and postpone reachingthe1.5
o
C and2.0
o
C marks by12to15years.Controllingcarbondioxide aswell as methane and black carbon emissionsfurtherslowsthe rate of global warming after2045, through at least 2070.Natural gassystems are thesinglelargestsource of anthropogenicmethaneemissionsintheUnited States(Fig. 2), representing almost 40%of the total fluxaccordingtothemost recent estimates fromtheU.S. Environmental ProtectionAgency(EPA) ascompiled byHowarth et al. (2012). Notethat throughthesummerof 2010, theEPAused emissionfactorsfrom a 1996studytoestimate thecontribution of natural gassystemstotheU.S. greenhouse gas(GHG)inventory.Increasing evidence overthe past 16years has indicatedthese emissionfactorswere probablytoolow, andinNovember 2010 EPAbegantoreleaseupdatedfactors. The estimates for natural gassystemsin Fig. 2arebased ontheseupdatedemission factors andinformationreleasedthrough2011intwoadditionalEPAreports,as presentedin Howarth et al. (2012). Notethatthe use ofthese newmethane emissionfactorsresultedin a doublinginthe estimate of methaneemissions fromthenatural gasindustry.Note alsothat, todate,EPAhas onlyincreasedemission factorsfor“upstream” and“midstream”portions of the natural gas industry(leaks andemissions at thewellsite andinprocessinggas). Factorsfor“downstream”emissions (storagesystems andtransmissionand distributionpipelines) are still fromthe 1996 report, althoughEPAisconsidering alsomodifyingthese(Howarthet al. 2012).Thenatural-gas-system emissions in Fig. 2 are based on an average emission of 2.6% of the methane producedfrom natural gaswells over their productionlifetime,with1.7%from upstreamand midstream emissions(forthe nationalmixof conventional andunconventional gasin 2009) and 0.9%from downstreamemissions (Howarth et al.2012). As discussed below, these methane emissionestimates from natural gassystems are based onlimiteddata andremainuncertain.
 
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Recent estimatesinthe peer-reviewedliteraturefordownstreamemissions ofmethane from natural gassystems rangefrom 0.07%to10%of themethane produced overthe lifetime of a well(Table1). Itis important tonotethat onlyLelieveld et al. (2005) presented actual data on emissions, intheircaseleakagefrom high-pressure transmissionpipelines. Otherestimates are based on emission factorsfromthe1996 EPAstudy, onemission factorsfrom a more recent report fromtheAmericanPetroleumInstitute, or on reports of “lost andunaccountedfor gas”togovernmentalagencies, leadingtohighuncertainty. Lelieveldet al. reported aleakageratefromhigh-pressuretransmission pipelines of 0.4%to1.6%, with a “best estimate” of 0.7%; they usedthe 1996EPAemissionfactorstoestimateemissions fromstorage and distributionsystems,yielding an estimatefortotaldownstreamemissions of1.4%(ortwice theirmeasuredvalueforjust transmission). Howarthet al. (2011)tookthe “best estimate” of 1.4% fromLelieveld etal. (2005) as theirlow-end estimate, arguingthatthe1996 EPAemission factorswere probablylow. Fortheir high-end estimate, Howarth et ________________________________________________________________________________Table1. Estimates ofmethane emissionfromdownstream emissions(transmissionpipelines andstorageanddistributionsystems)expressed asthe percentageof methaneproducedover thelifecycle of awell. Studies arelistedchronologically by date of publication.Modified fromHowarthet al. (2012).________________________________________________________________________________Hayhoe et al. (2002) 2.5%
(”bestestimate;”range =0.2% – 10%)
Lelieveld etal. (2005) 1.4%
(”bestestimate;”range= 1.0% – 2.5%)
Howarth et al.(2011) 2.5%
(mean; range= 1.4% 3.6%)
EPA(2011)* 0.9%Jianget al. (2011) 0.4%Hultmanet al. (2011) 0.9%Ventakesh et al. (2011) 0.4%Burnham et al. (2011) 0.6%Stephensonet al. (2011) 0.07 %Cathles et al. (2012) 0.7%
________________________________________________________________________* The EPA (2011) estimate is as calculated in Howarth et al. (2012), using nationalemissions from EPA reports and national gas production data from US Department of Energy reports.
al. (2011) useddata on “missingandunaccounted forgasfromTexas. Theirmeanestimate of 2.5% isidentical tothe “best estimate”fromHayhoe etal.

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