University of Cincinnati Geologists Identify Sources of Methane, Powerful Greenhouse Gas, in Ohio, #Colorado and Texas

Photo via @bberwyn
Photo via @bberwyn

Here’s the release from the University of Cincinnati (M.B. Reilly):

Methane comes from various sources, like landfills, bacterial processes in water, cattle and fracking. In testing methane sources at three national sites, University of Cincinnati geologists found no evidence fracking affected methane concentrations in groundwater in Ohio. At sites in Colorado and Texas, methane sources were found to be mixed, divided between fracking, cattle and/or landfills.

Researchers from the University of Cincinnati recently studied the sources of methane at three sites across the nation in order to better understand this greenhouse gas, which is much more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than is carbon dioxide.

The UC team, led by Amy Townsend-Small, assistant professor of geology, identified sources for methane in Carroll County, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; and Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, by means of an analysis technique that consists of measuring carbon and hydrogen stable isotopes (isotopic composition). This approach provides a signature indicating whether methane is coming from, say, natural gas extraction (fracking), organic/biologic decay, or the natural digestive processes of cattle.

Said Townsend-Small, “This is an analysis technique that provides answers regarding key questions as to specific sources for methane emissions. With isotopic composition analysis, it’s possible to tell whether the source is fracking or biogenic processes (like bacterial decomposition in landfills or algae-filled water). It’s a laborious technique to implement, but its use makes it possible to trace and attribute the source of methane production.”

[…]

Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin
Niobrara Shale Denver Julesberg Basin

MONITORING FRACKING IN COLORADO AND TEXAS
In the Denver Basin, which encompasses the city of Denver and the surrounding region, Townsend-Small and her team examined about 200 methane samples in 2014, collecting airborne measurements via aircraft as well as measuring methane levels on the ground, site by site.

Collection efforts focused on both atmospheric data and ground-level, site-specific samples in order to help ensure accuracy via cross checking of results.

In the Denver region, the isotopic composition signatures of the samples collected demonstrated that up to 50 percent of methane emissions in the region were from agricultural practices (cattle) and/or landfill sources, with the other half (about 50 percent) coming from fracking for natural gas.

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