Fracking operations at a site in Blackpool, UK, have caused an unintended release of methane gas into the atmosphere to the equivalent environmental cost of 142 trans-Atlantic flights according to new research.
Operations at the Preston New Road shale gas site led to a venting of around 4.2 tonnes of methane gas to atmosphere that was detected at a nearby monitoring station installed by researchers from The University of Manchester. The research team was led by Prof Grant Allen, and reported in the Journal of the Air and Waste Management Association.
Elevated methane (CH4) concentrations in the air were measured at an atmospheric monitoring station near the Preston New Road (PNR) shale gas site over a one-week period in January 2019. Analysis showed this to be a result of the release of non-combusted methane from the flare stack at the shale gas site following operations to clean out the 2.3 km deep shale gas well. During the emission event, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) were deployed to map the vertical and horizontal extent of the methane plume.
Professor Grant Allen, Professor of Atmospheric Physics and leader of the project at The University of Manchester, said: “Our work shows that atmospheric monitoring of shale gas activity is crucial to meaningfully assess any role that the industry may have in the UK’s future energy mix and whether it can (or cannot) be consistent with the UK’s stated aim of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2015.
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