Sunday, February 28, 2016

Methane Is: shale gas methane emissions contribute substantial greenhouse gases, by Ruth Hardinger

I invited my friend and fellow activist artist, Ruth Hardinger to guest blog on methane emissions. The dangers of these emissions is one of the most serious motivators for the Blued Trees Symphony. I am happy to post this on the day after the arrest of eleven Resist AIM Pipeline defenders who chained themselves to an access gate to halt Hudson River drilling for the Algonquin Incremental Market (AIM)- the Spectra Corporation Pipeline. The site of their arrests was not far from where Spectra destroyed the Blued Trees overture   Thanksgiving weekend 2015. On the same day, Governor Cuomo sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to halt construction on the AIM, and New York State Senators Liz Krueger and Felix Ortiz demanded pension fund fossil fuel divestments from Albany. It is a companion piece to the previous post, "After the Ph.D.," on environmental research work from artists. - Aviva Rahmani

Activists blocking Spectra work before arrests. Screenshot from FB of Photo by Erik R. McGregor

The short-lived climate pollutants [like methane] that we emit from human activities are basically controlling how fast the warming occurs, she said. This is because they are very powerful at absorbing radiation."[1]

Methane is CH4.  It is a powerful greenhouse gas. It degrades over 8 to 12 years in the atmosphere, as it converts into carbon dioxide (CO2).  There are three different sources of methane gas including thermogenic (from deep geology), anthropogenic (from human activities) or biogenic  (from living organisms ) methane[2].   “Natural” gas is composed of 85 to 99% methane, mostly thermogenic methane. 

The global warming potential of CH4 has been upgraded by IPCC to at least 86 times stronger than CO2 during a 20 year time frame of this gas, and 105 times stronger over a 10 year time frame.  Methane, grouped with other near-term climate forcers such as black carbon, hydrofluorocarbon and aerosols, is the most likely greenhouse gas escalating the planetary heat now, because there is so much of it being released.  There have been few measurements of gas leakage from gas wells and pipelines.  The measurements that have been made have found substantial concentrations of methane in the atmosphere.  Further, the EPA comparison of methane to CO2 on the 100 year time frame claims methane is 25 times stronger than CO2, hiding the real impact of CH4’s near-term presence.  Simply, the 100 year time frame does not acknowledge methane’s impact. 

The current atmospheric concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide have levels unprecedented in the last 800,000 years.[3]  There is great concern about the absence of data collected of actual measurements of emissions.   Fugitive methane emissions have been measured in only a few cities: San Francisco CA, Manhattan, NY[4], Washington DC, Boston MA, and several small towns. The urgency to address climate change should be based on the actual impacts of this potent GHG.  Bryce Payne, PHD and two other scientists wrote to the White House and State Department that the GWP (global warming potential) of methane needs be positioned even shorter than 20 years, it should be a 10 year time frame.  This will allow us to understand what we are facing and to act appropriately to reduce the changing of our planet’s climate.

Methane leakage impacts arise from man-made sources that include natural gas pipeline leakage, leakage and venting of upgrading pipelines, abandoned old wells, new wells, gas or oil storage fields (these are highly pressurized for example near Porter Ranch), migration underground that rises to the surface, and emissions from waste water disposal and earthquakes, venting methane in oil well fields, and more.  This is happening in the US and in other countries. Evidence of leakage can be seen in the images attached here.[5]  Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) has conducted methane emissions measurements in rural areas where methane escaped and has travelled beyond the target production zone underground, connected existing faults and fractures allowing gas to migrate to aquifers and the surface. 
Figure 5.  Image created by Bob Ackley, and Bryce Payne, Ph.D GasSafetyUSA 
The 3-4 June 2013 Towenda-Wyalusing Ambient Air Methane Survey.
Relative methane levels indicated in red (highest peak in the image = 3.9ppm)
Blue and orange markers indicate the Paradise Road and Sugar Run methane migration
impact areas (4-mile) designated in 16 May 2011 Pa DEP Consent Order.

Wyalusing area showing elevated methane (geological leakage) over a wide area in Susquehanna County, PA along the Susquehanna River  This is data obtained with a Picarro CRDS machine which produces very accurate measurements of methane to 1/2 ppm.  Chesapeake, the gas driller in the area, was fined $900, Pennsylvania DEP for causing gas migration. The area picture is detailed in the May 16 PA DEP Consent Order (post damage arrangement) which has the maps that are made by the yellow and blue points in the image. At least one lawsuit was settled there for $1.6 million and there are many more filed.

Image created by Bob Ackley, and Bryce Payne, Ph.D GasSafetyUSA 

Results of methane survey of parts of Manhattan and rural areas to the East on 27-30 November and December 2012.

DCS reported on fugitive emissions of Manhattan in 2012 and in New York City Gas Safety Inc. in 2015 determined that at least 6.6% of the total delivered gas is leaking although likely much more. [6]

Natural gas brings substantial and devastating health impacts.  DCS has participated in a compendium of health impacts from fracking.[7] Methane is an indicator gas for the mixture that is natural gas.  The mixture includes radon, endocrine disruptors, benzene toluene VETX , and more. Methane creates asthma from ozone and burning the gas emits ultrafine particulate matter, under 2.5 microns–these are like breathing someone else’s tobacco, an impact that it is overlooked.[8]  Global health agencies have encouraged awareness of air pollution-related diseases that causes over 6 million deaths every year. [9]

A quote from Bryce Payne, PhD  [10]
"It is essential that all UNFCCC (Cop 21) Parties and the global citizenry be as clearly informed as possible with respect to potential climate change and what is being done to mitigate anthropogenic forcing of the climate compared to what is actually necessary if disruptive climate change is to be minimized. If climate change mitigation efforts are to be effective, the short-term impacts of potent, short-lived greenhouse gases, especially methane, must be considered. In the near term, methane emissions due to human activity have a stronger global warming impact than the much larger emissions of carbon dioxide. Current greenhouse gas inventory and reporting rules of the UNFCCC are causing the climate impacts of greenhouse gases such as methane to be effectively ignored."


Ruth Hardinger is an artist and a Board and Steering Committee member with Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) since 2009.  DCS is a 501-C3 organization that stands for clean water, air and land as basic human rights.   She initiated the fugitive emissions measurements and studies in Manhattan for DCS with Rebecca Smith, and Barbara Arrindell (DCS Director).  In recent art installation exhibitions, Hardinger has used abstraction from the methane measurement work for The Basement Rocks and The Basement Rocks – LOUDER.  The materials and sensitivity of constructions encourage awareness of the underground.  These exhibitions are accompanied with “Grounding” a sound of the underground, by rock musician Andy Chase, and letters for the visitors to take that convey her conversations with scientist, Bryce Payne, PhD and professor Ron Bishop, PhD regarding damage that is happening to the underground, the place of the most biomass in our planet. 


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