Leaks from natural gas drilling are falling, study finds

Methane leaks from natural gas drilling and production have fallen from the last estimate more than a year ago, according to a study sponsored by the industry and an environmental group.

Leaks of methane, the main component of natural gas, now represent 0.38 percent of production volumes, according to the study released Tuesday.

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That is 10 percent lower than what the same University of Texas research team found in September 2013. Methane is a greenhouse has about 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

“Study after study shows that industry-led efforts to reduce emissions through investments in new technologies and equipment are paying off,” Howard Feldman, director of regulatory and scientific affairs at the American Petroleum Institute, said in a statement.

“This latest study shows that methane emissions are a fraction of estimates from just a few years ago,” he said.

The study came about three months after an annual report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said that methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing fell 73 percent from 2011 to 2013.

The Environmental Defense Fund, the other sponsor of Tuesday’s research, said the EPA report was based on a small subset of the gas industry, and emissions actually grew.

The research comes as the EPA is considering whether to write new regulations to reduce methane leaks from the oil and natural gas sectors. One set of methane rules take effect next month, though future standards would be focused on mitigating climate change.

Through sponsoring the research, API is trying to demonstrate that the industry is already taking steps to reduce emissions.

“The industry will continue to make substantial progress to reduce emissions voluntarily and in compliance with EPA regulations that will be fully implemented by January,” Feldman said in the statement.

“Methane is natural gas, so capturing more methane is helping operators deliver more natural gas to consumers.”