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Transportation Earth

Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles 102

Posted by samzenpus
from the zero-sum-game dept.
Lasrick writes "Coral Davenport at the NY Times reports on a study to be published on Friday: '...a surprising new report...concludes that switching buses and trucks from traditional diesel fuel to natural gas could actually harm the planet's climate.' The report apparently documents that the leaks of methane that occur when drilling for natural gas more than make up for the climate change benefits of using natural gas as a transportation fuel. The report will be published Friday in the journal Science."
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Study Finds Methane Leaks Negate Benefits of Natural Gas-Powered Vehicles

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 14, 2014 @07:10AM (#46244139)

    Hydraulic fracturing, nothing like the drilling process we've been using for nearly half a century now, is the technique being used to extract large amounts of natural gas. It causes a lot more problems than leaking methane and possibly harm the climate. Ever seen someone light their shower water on fire? Last time I checked, no one knew how much methane is being spewed into the atmosphere off the coast of Russia for years now. The negative effects of hydraulic fracturing has been hush hush... oh, and could be harming the climate.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday February 14, 2014 @07:10AM (#46244141)

    I'm expecting a report any time now regarding hydrogen-fueled vehicles, and leaks of hydrogen..

    look no further [stanford.edu], though it is largely positive compared to the alternatives of natural gas and petroleum.

  • by Viol8 (599362) on Friday February 14, 2014 @07:44AM (#46244213)

    ... in out atmosphere , whereas the CO2 released from burning it hangs around for hundreds if not thousands of years until its reabsorbed.

    (And yes I am aware that the escaped methane ends up as CO2 after those 10 odd years , but its a tiny amount compared to the amount we release by burning).

  • by mdsolar (1045926) on Friday February 14, 2014 @08:28AM (#46244349) Homepage Journal
    When you see those clean burning logos, that means no black plumes from diesel engines. That is good for people's health. It is not too surprising that there are no climate benefits. Part of the advantage for natural gas over coal is that combined cycle gas turbines are about 60% efficient while coal plants are 30 to 40% efficient. For the internal combustion engines in buses, the efficiency is about the same for both diesel and natural gas. And, diesel also has more hydrogen than coal in its makeup. But, producing a methane fuel cell is probably easier than producing a diesel fuel cell so natural gas buses have the potential to be more climate friendly than diesel buses sooner. Add that methane may be a useful hydrogen carrier for hydrogen fuel cells and the development of a methane infrastructure for trucks and buses is likely a smart move.
  • Re:Are we doomed? (Score:4, Informative)

    by JWW (79176) on Friday February 14, 2014 @10:15AM (#46245029)

    People have been selling the idea that our civilization is doomed for centuries:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]

  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Friday February 14, 2014 @11:18AM (#46245811) Homepage

    Part of what you say is true, however

    Fracking occurs MILES below any aquifers, and the bore is very well sealed

    is only potentially a true statement. Yes, if it's done right, the well bore is sealed and there is very little chance of contamination through the bore. However, cementing a well (the process that seals it) is not a trivial task (cf, the Macando disaster). It can be done correctly or not. The testing isn't easy and there is always going to be the temptation to just call it OK and go with the cement job.

    If you don't have processes in place to supervise the drilling company (like, for example, Pennsylvania) you're going to end up with contaminated well bores. Most of the time a small leak won't do anything untoward - at least not right away. But left in place for a couple of years you can get significant migration of petrochemicals at very shallow depths.

    Same issue with capping a well once it's finished producing - you can do it cheaply or you can do it correctly.

    What needs to happen is for the 'non traditional' petrochemical producing states to create and administrative structure like the Texas Railroad Commission (dumb, historical name) with regulatory powers and significant legal teeth to ensure that things are done correctly. Seems like a no brainer - it's self funding and Texas has a long track record of creating a really high level of well control without undue fuss. That doesn't seem to have happened. I'm sure drilling companies would love to NOT be adequately supervised but we all know how well that works out.

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