Methane Cloud Spotted Near Oklahoma Natural Gas Pipelines
(Bloomberg) -- A powerful cloud of planet-warming methane was spotted earlier this month in Oklahoma near multiple pipelines and oil and gas wells.
State and federal regulators said they couldn’t identify the source of the methane, which is the primary component of natural gas and traps more than 80 times more heat than carbon dioxide during its first two decades in the atmosphere.
The plume had an estimated emissions rate of 20 tons of methane an hour, according to geoanalytics company Kayrros SAS, which analyzed European Space Agency satellite data. If the release lasted an hour at that rate, it would have had the same short-term climate impact as the annual emissions from about 365 U.S. cars.
Kayrros estimated the source of the plume was within 3.1 miles (5 kilometers) of pipelines owned by TC Energy Corp., ONE Gas Inc and Energy Transfer. TC Energy declined to comment on the plume, a ONE Gas representative said the release didn’t come from its lines, and Energy Transfer didn’t respond to multiple messages and emails seeking comment. The area is also an active oil and gas basin with a high concentration of producers.
State and federal regulators were unable to identify the plume’s source. After a query from Bloomberg News, an air quality employee with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality drove to the location with an infrared camera on Jan. 7 but didn’t find anything.
“There are several pipelines in the area, so it is likely a pipeline issue,” DEQ representative Erin Hatfield said in an email. “We have called around and haven’t been to track down anything.”
Halting methane releases from fossil fuel operations is one of the most powerful steps that can be taken to slow global warming. Non-emergency flaring and venting of methane should be significantly mitigated or eliminated to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5° Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) and to maintain a pathway toward a net zero energy system by 2050, according to the International Energy Agency.
Officials for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the state agency that regulates pipelines, and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, a federal agency with similar oversight, said their agencies hadn’t received a report of such a release from any regulated company in the area.
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