A recent study released by Nature has presented some eye-opening revelations regarding natural gas and the role it plays in air pollution. After studying ice cores in Greenland, researcher Benjamin Hmiel and his team discovered that natural gas may not be as clean as once thought. Natural gas has often been thought of as a cleaner energy source when compared to other fossil fuels. With the release of the study, however, that thought has been brought deeply into question.
Hmiel and his team studied the difference between methane bubbles trapped in the ice between the years of 1750 to 2013. Prior to 1870, the methane trapped in the ice originated nearly all from biological sources, called natural fossil methane. After the second Industrial Revolution era lasting from 1870-1914, researchers saw a massive increase in not only bubbles, but methane that did not come from a biological source, called anthropogenic fossil methane. The information pointed out that methane’s atmospheric concentrations increased by at least 150% since the 1870s, and humankind’s responsibility could be 40% more than what we thought.
While methane lingers in the atmosphere for a very short time compared to carbon dioxide— about nine years for methane vs about a century for CO2— it is up to 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas. Methane emissions are responsible for about a quarter of the global warming we’re experiencing. Hmiel said of his study, “If we stopped emitting all carbon dioxide today, high carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would still persist for a long time. Methane is important to study because if we make changes to our current methane emissions, it’s going to reflect more quickly.”
Scholars have discussed how current pollution statistics can be misconstrued, regarding fossil fuel power plants and their methane emissions. Abnormal operating conditions, outdated equipment, and leaks from the power plants contribute a great deal to the atmospheric methane gas. However, companies often use averages for emissions rather than direct, accurate numbers. The general consensus is that methane emissions tend to be underestimated due to companies not taking unintentional leaks into account, and we are likely polluting the atmosphere much more than we previously had known.
For many years, people have been trying to figure out where all of the excess methane emissions may have originated, and hypotheses have ranged from livestock flatulence to the breakdown of organic material in wetlands. Now it appears that it may have been humankind after all. While that may not be the best news, it is beneficial news. Now that we are more aware of where methane is coming from, we can focus more on green energy & renewable resources.
Trebel has developed relationships with multiple suppliers that can offer 100% renewable energy (or a percentage of renewable energy) to offset the carbon footprint of the community. This can be accomplished by using renewable sources for the aggregation rate, or alternately, by offering a separate opt-in program with renewable options. As solar and wind become more viable, and less expensive, communities are looking to get ahead of the curve. Trebel has the renewable energy expertise to help meet your community’s renewable energy needs.