A massive release of methane over Florida has prompted U.S regulators to investigate whether or not a natural gas company has violated the U.S. Clean Air Act.
Methane is invisible, so the chemical cloud can’t be see. The regulators asked Bluefield Technologies Inc. to analyze data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite, which shows the methane cloud stretching from Gainesville in Florida’s Alachua county, northeast to Jacksonville and Duval County.
The cloud is estimated to contain 300 metric tons of methane gas. In 2018 the would have been roughly equivalent to 1% of the daily natural gas emissions for the entire country.
More concerning is the impact methane gas has on global warming and the climate crisis. Methane absorbs the heat of the sun 84 times more readily than carbon dioxide. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, methane pollution needs to be addressed to reduce the effects of the climate crisis.
“While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat,” the EDF reports. “Because methane is so potent, and because we have solutions that reduce emissions, addressing methane is the fastest, most effective way to slow the rate of warming now.”
The EDC attributes 25% of manmade global warming to methane emissions.
According to Bloomberg, the gas came from the Florida Gas Transmission Pipeline, a joint venture between Energy Transfer LP and Kinder Morgan Inc. The pipeline vented the methane gas into the atmosphere at the Bradford Country compressor facility during an emergency shutdown.
“Our preliminary findings indicate that the release may have occurred from maintenance operations at a natural gas compressor station located in Brooker (Bradford County), Florida,” the Environmental Protection Agency’s southeast regional office wrote.
In April, satellite data used in a study published in the journal Science Advances showed that the oil and gas industry in the Permian region of Texas and New Mexico was also responsible for large methane leaks into the atmosphere.
“This magnitude of emissions is 3.7% of the gross gas extracted in the Permian, i.e., ~60% higher than the national average leakage rate,” authors of the study wrote.
Learn more about methane’s effects on the environment in the video below.
Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.