A new report was just issued on "Emissions from Natural Gas Production in the Barnett Shale Area and Opportunities for Cost-Effective Improvements." The report was conducted by Dr. Al Armendariz, an environmental engineering professor at Southern Methodist University.
Among his conclusions:
(1) The oil and gas sector likely has greater emissions than motor vehicles in the five counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area with significant oil and gas production.
(2) Natural gas drilling in the region is generating considerable emissions of air toxic compounds like benzene and formaldehyde.
(3) The predicted 2009 emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are roughly equivalent to the expected greenhouse gas impact from two 750 megawatt coal-fired power plants.
(4) Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Armendariz concluded that cost effective control strategies are readily available "off-the-shelf," can substantially reduce emissions and, in some cases, can reduce costs for oil and gas operators due to a resulting increased production of natural gas and condensate. In an interview with Land Letter, he said that, "These solutions are universal.....People can certainly start applying these ideas in other areas."
Our conclusion? It's time to update our regulation of hazardous emissions from oil and gas exploration and production, starting with closing the loopholes in the Clean Air Act. Technical solutions are readily available to protect human health and our climate, and they don't pose an unreasonable economic burden to companies.