Today’s BC Liberal Speech from the Throne claimed natural gas is “the world’s cleanest-burning fossil fuel.”
Of course, that’s a bit like saying the electric Tesla Model S is the world’s least expensive car to operate. The statement requires ignoring $100,000+ costs incurred before one climbs into the driver’s seat. It’s the same with natural gas, and particularly gas that’s been produced by intensive fracking and been liquefied, transported, regasified and distributed to consumers in far-off lands.
Scientists at Cornell University have been arguing that greenhouse gas emissions are higher from using natural gas to produce electricity than from using coal. According to Forbes Magazine, recent measurements by scientists affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration support the Cornell assertions.
Methane and the Greenhouse-Gas Footprint of Natural Gas from Shale Formations, Howarth, Santoro, Ingraffea, 2012:
We evaluate the greenhouse gas footprint of natural gas obtained by high-volume hydraulic fracturing from shale formations, focusing on methane emissions. Natural gas is composed largely of methane, and 3.6% to 7.9% of the methane from shale-gas production escapes to the atmosphere in venting and leaks over the life-time of a well. These methane emissions are at least 30% more than and perhaps more than twice as great as those from conventional gas.
The higher emissions from shale gas occur at the time wells are hydraulically fractured — as methane escapes from flow-back return fluids — and during drill out following the fracturing. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential that is far greater than that of carbon dioxide, particularly over the time horizon of the first few decades following emission. Methane contributes substantially to the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas on shorter time scales, dominating it on a 20-year time horizon.
The footprint for shale gas is greater than that for conventional gas or oil when viewed on any time horizon, but particularly so over 20 years. Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years…
In Fugitive Methane Caught in the Act of Raising GHG, Forbes Magazine describes the occurrence of gas leaks during production:
Escape of these fugitives is especially large for shale gas as it requires high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking forces large volumes of water under pressure into the shale to fracture and re-fracture the rock to increase gas flow. A large amount of this water returns to the surface as flow-back within the first weeks after injection, bringing back large quantities of methane.
These losses can be decreased if new technologies are used and if regulations are strengthened… Such improvements have resulted in lower emissions from gas production in Colorado versus those in Utah, but these methods are not yet being broadly implemented…
In British Columbia, the Clark Government views resource companies as prime clients so they impose few financial or technical burdens and the gas industry operates under a scheme of virtual self-regulation, which may be a way of saying no-regulation. There is almost no independent examination of methane leaks in BC gas fields. Premier Clark has no idea of whether the natural gas industry is clean or not; it’s merely a talking point to justify what their financials supporters demand.
Scientist David Hughes debunks myths about energy, The Squamish Chief, February 10, 2016:
I would look at what is left of our gas as being a strategic, long-term resource and I would not recommend growing production so we can liquidate it at bargain-basement prices now, because it is going to be valuable later…
More evidence of ineffective regulation, from highly regarded journalist Mike De Souza, writing for National Observer: Pipeline cops go soft on Enbridge in property damage fiasco:
The NEB actually compromises landowner rights. It compromises the environment and safety…