Research From Bingham Research Center Published In Scientific Journal
By Kristin Forbis, Nov 19, 2021
Research from the USU Bingham Research Center in the Uinta Basin was published this week in ‘Nature’, an international scientific journal. The scientific study is titled, ‘Declining methane emissions and steady, high leakage rates observed over multiple years in a western US oil/gas production basin’. Their research, which started in 2015, is among the first in a scholarly journal to provide data with continuous and long term monitoring of methane emissions. ‘USU Today’ shares that the methane emissions tracked are from oil and gas wells and the study is considered crucial in order to have real data about the impact of the oil and gas industry and the ways to stop methane leaks. “The earth has only one atmosphere,” says research associate professor Seth Lyman, director of the Bingham Research Center at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin campus, “and emissions in one area can impact air quality and climate across the globe. Oil and natural gas facilities are not evenly distributed around the state or around the world, but climate impacts from fossil fuels are not dependent on the location of emissions.” Dr. Lyman is listed along with five others as the study’s authors. So what does the study share? It’s complicated but it did show that between 2015 and 2020 methane emissions in the Uinta Basin cut in about half. The leak rate stayed the same even with decreases in natural gas production which was surprising because research had previously concluded that lowering production actually increases the leak rate. So the fact that the leak rate stayed the same was something of note. Researchers ruled out regulation as the reason for the emissions decline but it was noted that at least one company in the Uinta Basin took voluntary action to detect and repair leaks. Obviously methane leaks affect air quality but Dr. Lyman also explains that the leaks waste energy and increase costs. “Besides the obvious (and more important) health impacts to residents of the Basin, air quality problems lead to increased regulation of oil and gas development, which increases costs, and those costs are passed on to consumers,” Lyman says. The study can be found on nature.com or linked to through usu.edu/today.