Methane Emissions From Natural Gas

Oil and gas wells in Four Corners region. Credit: NASA

Methane Madness (start time: 2:20)  More than a decade ago, scientists noted that the area where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah meet, known as Four Corners, appeared to be emitting a curiously large amount of methane. In a new study, a team of scientists have traced the source: more than 250 gas wells, storage tanks, pipelines and processing plants associated with oil and gas development in the San Juan Basin. The basin is one of many places where new drilling technologies, including horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have propelled a boom in natural gas extraction. The boom has transformed the U.S. energy mix. Our two guests discuss with hosts Daniel Glick and Susan Moran the science and public health aspects of this study as well as the human side of living near natural gas wells in Colorado. Dr. Colm Sweeney co-authored the recent Four Corners study. He is the lead scientist for NOAA’s Earth System Research Lab Aircraft Program, and he is a research scientist with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, or CIRES, at the University of Colorado Boulder. Our other guest, Dr. Christopher Clack, is a physicist and mathematician with CIRES whose research focuses on renewable electricity. He shares his personal experience with and documentation of natural gas extraction.

Hosts: Daniel Glick, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Executive Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Contributor: Joel Parker

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Conquering the Energy Crisis

book_cover_amazon-198x3001360_517118571690819_2111630523_nWelcome to this special edition of How on Earth.  This week, the 66th annual Conference of World Affairs is happening on the campus of CU-Boulder, and today’s show is one of the events.  The speaker and guest in our studio today is Maggie Koerth-Baker.  She writes a monthly column, “Eureka,” for The New York Times Magazine and is also the science editor at BoingBoing.net.  She enjoys exploring the intersection between science and culture, and you can “Find your daily dose of Maggie science” through her website at maggiekb.com, and her pages on Facebook and Twitter.   She has co-authored a book titled: “Be Amazing: Glow in the Dark, Control the Weather, Perform Your Own Surgery, Get Out of Jury Duty, Identify a Witch, Colonize a Nation, Impress a Girl, Make a Zombie, Start Your Own Religion.”  Her recent book, and with a shorter title, is called: “Before the Lights Go Out: Conquering the Energy Crisis Before It Conquers Us.”  And that is the topic that brings her here today.

Host, Engineer, Producer: Joel Parker

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Leaky Natural Gas Wells // Measuring Glaciers and Ice Caps

Leaky Natural Gas Wells (start time 6:22).   We speak with Greg Frost, a scientist from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), about a new study, which is being published by the Journal of Geophysical Research.  The study indicates that natural gas drilling creates higher amounts of methane leakage into the atmosphere than previous estimates had indicated.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and unless this problem of leakage is solved, there is concern that drilling for natural gas might cause higher levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere than burning coal.  We also offer an extended version of this interview.

Recent Contributions of Glaciers and Ice Caps to Sea Level Rise (start time 14:25).  Scientists at CU’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research now have used eight years worth of satellite data to a clearer picture of how climate change is impacting the cryosphere, or ice-covered parts of the planet. (See animations here.)  Knowing how much ice has been lost during this time can help scientists understand how melting ice might contribute to sea level rise, both now and in the future. But there have been conflicting stories in the press about how the results should be interpreted.  We talk with Tad Pfeffer, one of the study’s coauthors, to discuss what’s really happening to the Earth’s ice.

Hosts: Joel Parker & Breanna Draxler
Producer: Joel Parker
Engineers: Jim Pullen & Shelley Schlender
Additional contributions: Beth Bartel
Executive producer: Shelley Schlender

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Leaky Natural Gas Wells [extended version]

Natural Gas Wells Leak More Methane and Benzene than Expected

 

This is an extended version of the KGNU Science Show, How on Earth.  It features Greg Frost, a scientist with the University of Colorado at Boulder and with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  He’s on the team led by Gabrielle Petron which has been studying leaks from natural gas production.  In this extended interview, Greg tells us about natural gas wells in Colorado that are leaking twice as much methane and benzene into the atmosphere as official estimates have indicated.  Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Benzene is a carcinogen.  Let’s listen in now, as Greg Frost tells How on Earth’s Shelley Schlender what their study of leaking methane from gas wells found.

 

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Natural Gas Boom//BP Oil Spill’s Human Toll

We discuss the environmental and human costs of natural gas drilling practices, and then the human toll of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico one year after the disaster.

On natural gas drilling practices, Susan Moran interviews Steve Torbit, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Rocky Mountain Center; and Steven Hall, communications director for the Colorado Bureau of Land Management.

Ted Burnham interviews Liesel Ritchie, assistant director for research at the Natural Hazards Center, about the BP oil disaster’s social costs. Click here for details of the study.

Producer: Tom McKinnon
Co-hosts
: Tom McKinnon and Susan Moran
Engineer: Ted Burnham
Headlines: Breanna Draxler

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