Quick Analysis: Methane Levels in Marcellus Shale Region, PA

By Ian Teñido

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There is increase in the atmospheric Methane levels in Marcellus Shale region of Northeast Pennsylvania. The levels of methane which is one of the world’s most potent greenhouse gases has increased by 5.1% between 2012 and 2015. The levels are increasing despite a slowdown in the number of new natural gas wells. There has been a ‘Shale Gas Revolution’ in the U.S. (França, 2014) and it has taken place with the help of a process called Fracking. Fracking is a process in which a well is drilled vertically underground and a steel casing is inserted down the hole. Overall a lot of changes happen to the structure of the Earth surrounding the location of this process. Even a small amount of Methane escaping to the atmosphere can contribute greatly to climate change. It has a potency of 84 times greater than carbon dioxide and ends up overheating the atmosphere drastically.

The cause of the elevated atmospheric methane levels is the increase in the production levels of natural gas from this part of the region. The process followed is known as hydraulic fracturing and through this process coupled with other infrastructure; the production of natural gas has increased drastically. The second cause is the lack of adequate measures to reduce Methane leakage in the Marcellus Shale region. There is also a lack of understanding on the source of leaks. Finally, even if the damage was done a long time ago and the companies are more careful in the present, the effects are being experience and will continue to be felt for a long time. The damage has been done and it has long term ramifications. The concentration levels of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere tend to have a serious impact on the temperatures.

The regulatory agencies as well as the companies involved in Natural Gas production need to focus on preventing the leakage of natural gas from various sources because more production means more natural gas is passing through pipelines, compression stations and processing plants. This also increases the chances for leakage if the equipments are not foolproof. The government as well as other agencies need to invest more funds and time in investigating for better pipeline technologies. They also need to invest in research for finding out the proper source of leakage. Leakage has to be prevented at any cost and Research and Development efforts need to focus on these aspects.

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Since fracturing of the ground structure can lead to creation of more pathways for gases to escape to the atmosphere, this needs to be prevented.  It is understandable that Fracking has positively impacted the U.S. economy by bringing the prices of natural gas down (Stevens, 2012). The dependence on foreign oil has also reduced drastically but the government needs to pass some of the benefits by investing in better technologies in this area to prevent leakage. The extraction has to be done only if the technology has been improved and the leakage has completely stopped. It is possible that if a research was to be conducted on the overall cost-versus-benefit analysis, it is possible that reduction in oil bills from foreign countries could be much lesser than the increase in the medical bills of people staying in the region.

The final solution is having a social linkage. The society needs to watch its consumption levels and ensure that there are less pressure on the resources of the country. Increased consumption would mean that more parts of the country will be damaged in order to meet the demand. The society needs to reduce its consumption and also raise voice against activities that are increasing undue amounts of green house gases into the atmosphere. Sustainable Development (Glavič, 2007) ought to be the focus of the governments and this will prevent over consumption and over-burdening of the infrastructures.

Article Download Link: Quick Analysis- Methane Levels in Marcellus Shale Region PA_Ian Tenido_PDF

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References

França, A., & Menger, K. (2014). Shale Gas Revolution? UFRGSMUN | UFRGS, Model United Nations. ISSN: 2318-3195, (2), 377-408.

Glavič, P., & Lukman, R. (2007).  Review of sustainability terms and their definitions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 15(18), 1875-1885.

Stevens, P. (2012). The ‘Shale Gas Revolution’: Developments and Changes. Chatham House. Retrieved from http://www.notforshale.com/PDF/chatham%20house.pdf.

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