Policy ForumEnergy and Environment

Methane Leaks from North American Natural Gas Systems

Science  14 Feb 2014:
Vol. 343, Issue 6172, pp. 733-735
DOI: 10.1126/science.1247045

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Natural gas (NG) is a potential “bridge fuel” during transition to a decarbonized energy system: It emits less carbon dioxide during combustion than other fossil fuels and can be used in many industries. However, because of the high global warming potential of methane (CH4, the major component of NG), climate benefits from NG use depend on system leakage rates. Some recent estimates of leakage have challenged the benefits of switching from coal to NG, a large near-term greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction opportunity (13). Also, global atmospheric CH4 concentrations are on the rise, with the causes still poorly understood (4).

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  • Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or the U.S. Government.