2023 journal article

Observation-derived 2010-2019 trends in methane emissions and intensities from US oil and fields tied to metrics


author keywords: methane; oil; gas emission; inversion; decadal trends; production activity
UN Sustainable Development Goal Categories
13. Climate Action (Web of Science)
Source: Web Of Science
Added: August 21, 2023

The United States is the world’s largest oil/gas methane emitter according to current national reports. Reducing these emissions is a top priority in the US government’s climate action plan. Here, we use a 2010 to 2019 high-resolution inversion of surface and satellite observations of atmospheric methane to quantify emission trends for individual oil/gas production regions in North America and relate them to production and infrastructure. We estimate a mean US oil/gas methane emission of 14.8 (12.4 to 16.5) Tg a −1 for 2010 to 2019, 70% higher than reported by the US Environmental Protection Agency. While emissions in Canada and Mexico decreased over the period, US emissions increased from 2010 to 2014, decreased until 2017, and rose again afterward. Increases were driven by the largest production regions (Permian, Anadarko, Marcellus), while emissions in the smaller production regions generally decreased. Much of the year-to-year emission variability can be explained by oil/gas production rates, active well counts, and new wells drilled, with the 2014 to 2017 decrease driven by reduction in new wells and the 2017 to 2019 surge driven by upswing of production. We find a steady decrease in the oil/gas methane intensity (emission per unit methane gas production) for almost all major US production regions. The mean US methane intensity decreased from 3.7% in 2010 to 2.5% in 2019. If the methane intensity for the oil/gas supply chain continues to decrease at this pace, we may expect a 32% decrease in US oil/gas emissions by 2030 despite projected increases in production.