As shale gas drilling continues to expand across the United States, the study of its utilization and potential climate implications associated with methane leaks and losses has ramped up across the country. Researchers from West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions are teaming with the Environmental Defense Fund to conduct comprehensive methane leak and loss audits at five sites in the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth, Texas.

The two teams from WVU, who did much of their work this past October, were led by Derek Johnson, principal investigator and research assistant professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

“As the industry grows, it must grow responsibly,” explained Johnson. “Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas, we must conduct this and similar research to help minimize or mitigate its loss across the supply chain.

“The responsible use of shale gas is a research focus for WVU,” Johnson added. “This type of research can help to better understand the methane loss associated with the growing natural sector, which includes natural gas used for power generation and as a transportation fuel.”

The audits are based on a measurement campaign conducted in the active shale producing basin in Texas. These sites included pipeline compressor stations and injection well sites. These measurements will help to compare bottom-up and top-down methods for regional methane loss quantification.

CAFEE researchers used high-volume sampling systems and greenhouse gas analyzers using cavity-enhanced absorption to quantify leaks and losses at these sites in real time. Researcher also used an infrared camera from the National Energy Technology Laboratory to spot and record leaks.

The team also collected bag samples for hydrocarbon measurements with gas spectrometers. Exhaust samples were also analyzed to determine the amount of methane slip from the dedicated natural gas fueled engines that power transmission line and storage well compressors. WVU will produce a report on their findings to contribute to a paper that will summarize results from the various measurements taken as part of the coordinated campaign.

A combination of teams from top industry and academic research institutions from around the country worked in tandem to collect methane emissions data across using ground-based, vehicle and aircraft measurement tools.

The CAFEE team was funded by the EDF, WVU’s Energy Council and funds from WVU’s George Berry Chair Endowment.



CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.