Peer Review Study: Emissions from Drilling Less Than EPA Estimates

University of TexasFracking critics are probably not too happy to read the New York Times article detailing a peer reviewed study from the University of Texas which found, among other things, that methane release from fracking wells was less than the EPA had estimated and far less than fracking critics had claimed.  The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

As stated by the Environmental Defense Fund as to whether fracking emissions can be regulated and contained:  “Can we control it?  Thanks to new EPA regulations coming online, the answer to that is good news.”

The study was comprehensive and involved over 500 wells.  To evaluate containment, the researchers installed monitoring equipment during production (referred to in the industry as “completion”).  For new wells being prepared for production, containment measures successfully captured 99 percent of the methane.   The result indicates that emissions are far lower than previously estimated.   For more detail regarding the methodology employed in the study, please see this Oil & Gas Journal article.

Notably, the study was performed with consent of numerous energy companies, with participation of one environmental group.   Not surprisingly, the study is not without its critics.  According to one report, a Cornell University professor, Dr. Robert Howarth, claims that the study only “suggests that the oil and gas industry — when sufficiently motivated — can produce natural gas with modestly low emissions.”   Dr. Howarth had released a prior study which concluded that there were higher emissions associated with fracking.   Apparently, Dr. Howarth believes that the low readings are due to fracking workers being especially conscientious, as opposed to deploying effective containment measures.


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  • Your name…Bill Owen, 12th Saturday 2013 at 3:09 pm


    Your message…Dr. Howarth’s prrevious study alluded to in this article was not an on-site measurement study as this one, but rather relied on old data and a computer model. As an engineer, I can tell you that you can create a model that will ‘prove’ whatever you want, but in no case is a model an adequate substitute for real measurements.

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