U.S. Oil/Gas Methane Emissions Science Tracker
This interactive database tracks the ongoing wave of scientific studies documenting that methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas system are far higher than the official U.S. government counts and are growing.
The database provides a comprehensive catalog of significant studies on the methane emissions in the U.S. oil and gas sector, particularly studies since 2018 when the weight of the science on these emissions began to shift dramatically, as well as other studies relevant for understanding the global context.
Comprehensive View of Scientific Studies on Methane
A new wave of science over the last four years reports that methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas system are far, far worse than the official government counts, all the way from the wellhead to stove tops, gas-fired power plants, and LNG export terminals. In addition, this literature show that methane emissions from the national oil and gas system are growing.
This literature reports that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are twice the level stated by EPA and twice the level reported by the U.S. government to the UNFCCC under the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement. This literature also reports that methane emissions from the oil and gas sector are significantly higher than the estimates in the literature of earlier years.
Because methane washes out of the atmosphere fairly quickly, modern era levels of atmospheric methane (1,900 ppb - compared to the pre-industrial level of ~700 ppb) are maintained only by massive ongoing anthropogenic emissions - to which the global oil and gas system is established as a major contributor.
The recent surge in global atmospheric methane (125 ppb) extends from the modern era level maintained in part by the global oil and gas system. These studies report that the U.S. oil and gas system are a contributor to the unexpected global surge in atmospheric methane over the past decade. An authoritative assessment of the literature published in 2020 reports that methane emissions from the U.S. oil and gas operations are among the contributors to the recent surge (Jackson et al. 2020 and Saunois et al 2020) as does the IPCC WGI report published in August of 2021. However, estimates of the size of this contribution, from across the literature, fall across a wide range, with some studies indicating that U.S. oil/gas production is one of the primary drivers of the global surge, while others, particularly more recent studies, find that global oil/gas production is only a minor contributing factor (e.g. Oh et al. 2022 and Feng et al. 2022a). Regardless of the size of its contribution to the recent surge, the oil and gas sector is established as a major ongoing contributor to the modern-era level of methane which props up the surge.
The tracker currently highlights over 70 studies published over the last 4 years as well as several older studies that provide important context or findings. Of particular note, Zhang et al., Negron et al., Chen et al., Ayassee et al., Yu et al., Ren et al., and Weller et al. provide extensive evidence that total emissions from the U.S. oil and gas system are significantly higher than estimated prior in the literature (e.g. as estimated by Alvarez et al. 2018 - which found emissions are about 60% higher than EPA estimates).
Most recently, EDF conducted a study of 2019 methane emissions from the U.S. oil/gas system, updating the methodology employed by Alvarez et al. to account for the findings noted above. The updated study finds that that methane emissions from the U.S. oil/gas system are now twice the level reported by the EPA.
The EPA has not updated the official U.S. estimate of methane emissions, failing to account for the science going back to Alvarez et al. and even further. Under the Trump Administration, the EPA instead lowered its estimates of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. To date, the EPA under the Biden Administration has maintained these lower estimates.
For more information, contact: Hunter Cutting, email@example.com