Methane release from UK shale gas site equivalent to 142 transatlantic flights

27th October 2020 | Commercial Energy

Fracking operations at a site in Blackpool, UK, have caused an unintended release of methane gas into the atmosphere to the equivalent environmental cost of 142 transatlantic flights, according to new research. Operations at the Preston New Road shale gas site led to a venting of around 4.2 tonnes of methane gas to atmosphere that was detected at a nearby monitoring station installed by researchers from the University of Manchester. The research team was led by Professor Grant Allen, with the findings reported in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.

Elevated methane (CH4) concentrations in the air were measured at an atmospheric monitoring station near the Preston New Road shale gas site over a one-week period in January 2019. Analysis showed this to be a result of the release of non-combusted methane from the flare stack at the shale gas site following operations to clean out the 2.3km deep shale gas well. During the emission event, drones were deployed to map the vertical and horizontal extent of the methane plume.

Shale gas

Allen said, “Our work shows that atmospheric monitoring of shale gas activity is crucial to meaningfully assess any role that the industry may have in the UK’s future energy mix and whether it can (or cannot) be consistent with the UK’s stated aim of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2015. This work informs that debate and provides new data on emissions from well-clearing activities that must be captures in industry life cycle assessments and should be used to inform regulatory oversight and industrial practices surrounding venting activities such as the event quantified here. Such emissions should be avoided wherever possible.”

Identification of the methane emissions form the site was made by comparing the data with two years of baseline measurements, taking into account variability due to season and wind direction. The baseline monitoring was carried out by the University of Manchester as part of a British Geological Survey-led environmental monitoring project and supported by the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy.

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