There are very few observations of methane emissions from offshore oil and gas facilities. Some members of the F3UEL team sought to address this gap through an airborne evaluation of offshore methane emissions in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and development of an observation-based emissions inventory.
Their work, which was published in the April 2020 issue of Environmental Science & Technology, found emissions two-fold higher than those reported in the Environmental Protection Agency’s U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory.
The authors attribute federal inventory underestimates to incomplete counts of platforms (something EPA plans to correct in their forthcoming inventory update) and underestimated emission rates in shallow water. They also observe disproportionally high emissions from a small number of shallow water facilities involved in processing and distribution of oil and gas, highlighting a large source and a potentially important mitigation opportunity.
More work is needed to understand whether these findings, which are based on limited sampling, are representative of activity throughout the Gulf and to identify the specific processes contributing to the observed high emissions, especially in shallow waters.
That’s where the F3UEL study comes in. Through extensive sampling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska, and California, F3UEL will better characterize emissions and improve understanding of the underlying processes, with the goals of improving inventories and identifying mitigation opportunities.
Funding provided by the Climate and Clean Air Coalition Oil and Gas Methane Science Studies managed by the UN and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.