A news report from the first week of the leak.
Since March 25, the Elgin gas platform off the coast of Scotland has been leaking 7 million cubic feet of gas a day. The natural gas, mostly methane, doesn’t have the dark stain of oil and it hasn’t inspired the news coverage of Deepwater Horizon. But that doesn’t mean it can be ignored.
Like carbon dioxide, methane is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. But methane is much worse: the same amount of methane will have 25 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide over a 100-year period. In the six months that it will take to stop the leak, enough methane would have escaped into the atmosphere to equal the annual global warning impact as 300,000 new cars, according to a recent TIME article.
The Elgin gas leakage is an extreme example of how natural gas exploration and processing is always beset by leaks. After all, the stuff is gas that wants to float away. The TIME piece dissects a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences evaluating whether natural gas really is more environmentally friendly than coal. Their answer? It depends, and it partially depends on leaks. Read More
How to make natural gas? Flush the toilet, and wait three weeks. At least that’s the plan for homes involved in the Didcot Renewable Gas Project, which will be recycling residents’ waste into renewable natural gas, aka “biogas“.
Gearóid Lane, managing director of communities and new energy at British Gas, said: “This renewable gas project is a real milestone in Britain’s energy history, and will help customers and the environment alike. Renewable gas has the potential to make a significant contribution to meeting the UK’s energy needs. Gas from sewage is just one part of a bigger project, which will see us using brewery and food waste and farm slurry to generate gas to heat homes.” [The Guardian]
The renewable gas won’t smell bad or function any differently than the gas already being provided to customers’ homes. This isn’t the first biogas plant in the U.K. or the world, but it is the first facility whose biogas is made directly from human waste and transferred back to those humans’ homes. Most of the other plants run off of agricultural and food waste.
The plant is just a test project, able to provide gas to about 200 homes. But the British government is hopeful that more such projects will help the country reach its goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2020. Said Martin Baggs, chief executive of the utility company Thames Water:
“Every sewage works in Britain is a potential source of local renewable gas waiting to be put to use.” [BBC News]
An EPA report published Tuesday told residents near Pavillion, Wyoming to avoid drinking and cooking with well water after tests revealed petroleum hydrocarbons and other contaminants in 17 out of 19 wells near the town. Many residents worry that local drilling for natural gas is to blame. The EPA is still investigating.
“EPA has not reached any conclusions about how constituents of concern are occurring in domestic wells,” the report said. [Reuters]
As the agency continues its investigation, it along with other government organizations and the natural gas company EnCana, will provide alternative drinking water sources for affected residents. EnCana volunteered to provide the water, though a company representative told the AP that company’s tie to the contaminated the wells is unclear–since the chemicals appeared in earlier EPA tests, before EnCana’s drilling started in 2005.