Frackademia: The People & Money Behind the EDF Methane Emissions Study

Mon, 2013-09-16 12:50Steve Horn
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Frackademia: The People & Money Behind the EDF Methane Emissions Study

Update: UT-Austin has released the Steering Committee roster for the study. It consists of lead author David Allen, two EDF employees, and nine oil industry representatives, including lobbyists and PR staff from ExxonMobil, Shell, Southwestern Energy and more. See DeSmog's follow-up coverage.

The long-awaited Environmental Defense Fund (EDF)-sponsored hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) fugitive methane emissions study is finally out. Unfortunately, it's another case of “frackademia” or industry-funded 'science' dressed up to look like objective academic analysis.

If reliable, the study - published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and titled, “Measurements of methane emissions at natural gas production sites in the United States” - would have severely reduced concerns about methane emissions from fracked gas.

The report concludes .42% of fracked gas - based on samples taken from 190 production sites - is emitted into the air at the well pad. This is a full 2%-4% lower than well pad emissions estimated by Cornell University professors Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea in their ground-breaking April 2011 study now simply known as the “Cornell Study.”

peek behind the curtain show the study's results - described as “unprecedented” by EDF - may have something to do with the broad spectrum of industry-friendly backers of the report which include several major oil and gas companies, individuals and foundations fully committed to promoting the production and use of fracked gas in the U.S.

One of the report's co-authors currently works as a consultant for the oil and gas industry, while another formerly worked as a petroleum engineer before entering academia.

The study will likely be paraded as “definitive” by Big Oil, its front groups and the media in the days and weeks to come.

DeSmogBlog exclusive investigation reveals the study actually stands to make its pro-gas funders a fortune in what amounts to industry-favorable data meant to justify shale gas in the public mind as a “bridge fuel” - EDF's stance on gas - now and into the future.  

Cornell's Howarth Reacts

Howarth has issued a press statement unpacking the long-anticipated study, beginning by explaining a key caveat (emphases mine).

“First, this study is based only on evaluation of sites and times chosen by industry,” Howarth stated.

“The Environmental Defense Fund over the past year has repeatedly stated that only by working with industry could they and the Allen et al. team have access necessary to make their measurements. So this study must be viewed as a best-case scenario.”

Howarth next explains industry cooperation - while a nice sales pitch - isn't necessary to “get the goods.”

“[M]any other scientists have proven over the past 2 years that you can measure methane emissions from gas development without industry cooperation, for instance by using aircraft to fly over operations,” he said.

“Many studies have now been published, and many more presented at national scientific meetings, on methane emissions using techniques which capture the emissions at regional scales and do not require industry permission to sample…All of these studies are reporting upstream [well pad] emission estimates…10- to 20-fold higher than those reported in this new paper.”

Why the vastly better results on methane emissions?

“How can we explain this huge discrepancy?” Howarth asked. “[Industry does] it better when they know they are being carefully watched. When measurements are made at sites the industry chooses and at times the industry allows, emissions are lower than the norm.”

Lastly, Howarth points out that unlike his April 2011 study, this study didn't do a lifecycle analysis, limiting the data set to fracked well sites.

“Finally, methane emission from upstream at the well sites is only part of the problem,” he commented. “Methane is also emitted as gas moves to consumers, and again new studies are indicating these emissions may be even larger than the 1.4 to 3.6% of lifetime well production.”

EDF announced this is just the first of a series of 16 articles to come on the climate impacts of shale gas production at various stages of its lifecycle.  

People and Money Behind the Study

Without getting to into the minutiae of the study's science, it's key to dig into what at face-value seems like minutiae - when examined in piecemeal fashion and not as an aggregate - about the people and money behind the study.

Study sponsors listed in the 'Acknowledgments' section of the report include Anadarko Petroleum, BG Group, Chevron, Encana, Talisman and ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy in addition to EDFThese are the obvious “frackademia” culprits raising red flags regarding the study's findings.

But that only scratches the surface.

Others listed as key funders include - but are not limited to - Fiona and Stanley Druckenmiller, the Robertson Foundation and Tom Steyer. All have key connections to fracking and pro-industry stances that tell an important tale about the study and its findings.

Druckenmillers: EDF, Bloomberg, “Clean Heat”

Stanley Druckenmiller - a well-known New York City-based hedge fund manager - serves as a member of EDF's Board of Trustees. His wife Fiona serves on the Board of Directors of the Bloomberg Family Foundation.

In August 2012, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave EDF a 3-year $6 million grantto minimize the environmental impacts of natural gas operations through hydraulic fracturing.”

Michael Bloomberg; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

“The funding will support EDF's strategy of securing strong rules and developing industry best practices in the 14 states with 85 percent of the country’s unconventional gas reserves,” EDF spelled out in a press release 

Before the studies' findings even came out - or for that matter, before the studies even began - Mayor Bloomberg explained the rationale behind the studies in a less than objective manner. This came on the day after he endorsed fracking in New York's portion of the Marcellus Shale basin. 

“Here’s the truth on natural gas. The environmentalists who oppose all fracking are wrong, and the drillers who claim that regulation will kill the industry are wrong,” he told EDF. “What we need to do is make sure that the gas is extracted carefully and in the right places, and that has to be done through strong, responsible regulation.”

Under Bloomberg's watch, New York City is in the process of moving from oil to gas for heating, popularly referred to as the “NYC Clean Heat” initiative, a recipient of a $100 million grant from Bloomberg. The gas will be obtained predominantly via fracking in the Marcellus Shale basin. 

EDF serves as a lead sponsor of the “Clean Heat” initiative and its website was registered in April 2011 by the EDF itself

The genesis of “NYC Clean Heat” centered around the release of a December 2009 report published by EDF and the Urban Green Council titled, “The bottom of the barrel: How the Dirtiest Heating Oil Pollutes Our Air and Harms Our Health.” One of Urban Green Council’s key sponsors is Bloomberg L.P.

Though co-published by EDF and Urban Green Council, the report was actually written by M.J. Bradley & Associates, according to the Acknowledgements. 

M.J. Bradley & Associates’ clients include the American Clean Skies Foundation (a Chesapeake Energy front group), Dominion (owner of the recently-approved Lusby, Maryland-based liquefied natural gas export facility), EDF and the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Steyer, Paulson, Bloomberg: Backing Fracking

Another key study funder of the study was Tom Steyer. Referred to by Bill McKibben in the Rolling Stone as “Daddy Greenbucks,” he's best known these days for his activism fending off the northern half of Transcanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Tom Steyer; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

Before leaving to work full time as an alternative energy investor, Democratic Party super-PAC donor and climate change activist, Steyer ran a multi-billion hedge fund called Farallon Capital Management.

Steyer began his career as a colleague of both Robert Rubin and Henry “Hank” Paulson, former U.S. Secretaries the Treasury under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, respectively.   

“In 1983, after finishing business school, Tom returned to New York and worked in the risk-arbitrage division of Goldman Sachs under Robert Rubin, Clinton’s future Treasury Secretary,” explained a recent piece appearing in The New Yorker of the relationship between Steyer and former Goldman CEO Rubin.

At the time, Paulson was leading Goldman Sachs' Midwest Region Investment Banking group.

Henry “Hank” Paulson; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Steyer, Bloomberg, Paulson, Rubin and former U.S. Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan George Shultz have reunited to form a climate change initiative whose details will be revealed in October, according to The New Yorker

In a January 2012 op-ed appearing in The Wall Street Journal co-written by Steyer and Center for American Progress chairman John Podesta - now serving as Steyer's aide - they both offer a full-throttled endorsement of fracking while avoiding use of the term.

“Under President Obama's leadership, we appear to be at the beginning of a domestic gas and oil boom,” they wrote. “This can free us from our addiction to foreign-sourced barrels, particularly if we utilize our dramatically larger and cheaper natural gas reserves.”

Perhaps alluding to the forthcoming EDF study, Steyer and Podesta say that if the questions are answered positively, shale gas can serve as a game-changer.

“There are critical environmental questions associated with developing these resources, particularly concerning methane leakage and water contamination,” they wrote.

“Yet as long as we ensure high regulatory standards and stay away from the riskiest and most polluting of these activities, we can safely assemble a collection of lower-carbon, affordable and abundant domestic-energy assets that will dramatically improve our economy and our environment.”

Via his TomKat Trust named after him and his wife Kat Taylor, Steyer is also a major funder of the ClimateWorks Foundation.

ClimateWorks got off the ground in 2007 by authoring a key report titled, “Design to Win: Philanthropy’s Role in the Fight Against Global Warming.” Among other things, the report calls for converting coal-fired power plants to gas-fired power plants, a de facto endorsement of the then forthcoming U.S. fracking boom. 

Will the Steyer, Bloomberg, Paulson and Rubin climate initiative promote fracking as a “bridge fuel”? Time will tell: October's just a few weeks away. 

Here's To You, Mr. Robertson

Another key funder of the study is the Robertson Foundation, overseen and endowed by famous hedge fund manager and EDF Board of Trustees member Julian Robertson.

Formerly the manager of the hedge fund Tiger Management, Robertson now serves as a Senior Advisor for a hedge fund focusing on midstream energy asset investments: Tiger Infrastructure Partners.

Emil Henry serves as the Managing Director and Managing Partner of Tiger Infrastructure Partners. Henry was the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury from 2005-2007, reporting to Henry Paulson as his superior.

Emil Henry; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Launching in 2009, Tiger Infrastructure Partners signed a key partnership with Kiewit Corporation in June 2012 to develop midstream shale gas assets, mainly gathering systems, pipelines and processing plants.

Tiger - under the deal - is set to spend up to half a billion bucks in captial to develop Kiewit's assets, with seed money coming from Julian Robertson and the Ziff family fortune. 

“[They] are counting on continued demand for new natural gas and gas liquids and ways to transport them as energy explorers develop new drilling areas,” explained The Wall Street Journal. “The Tiger-Kiewit pact aims to build the pipelines and processing plants for explorers in those new drilling fields.”

Kiewit has helped build numerous key midstream and downstream shale gas industry assets, including Maryland's recently-approved Dominion Cove Point LNG export terminal, Oregon's proposed Jordan Cove LNG export facility, the massive Bakken Shale-based Tioga Gas PlantCentral Gathering Plant-72 in Texas, Mewbourne Gas Plant in Colorado; and Wyoming's Lost Cabin Gas PlantOpal Gas Plant and Riley Ridge Gas Processing Plant.    

The Tiger-Kiewit partnership officially goes by the name TKT Midstream Partners.

Erik Ludtke - TKT Midstream's Senior Vice President of Corporate Development - formerly served in executive-level positions both at BG Group and Talisman, both of whom served as sponsors of the EDF study. 

“Our focus is delivering producers' hydrocarbons to market,” TKT bluntly explains in its mission statement.

“Our capabilities include gathering, processing, treating, and transporting hydrocarbons and handling and treating of flowback and produced water. Our unique ability to design, engineer, build, own, and operate midstream assets makes us a one-stop-shop for producers.”

The Ziffs and Fracking

While Julian Robertson served as one key seed donor to TKT Midstream, so too did the Ziff family, most famous as owners of Ziff Davis Media

The Ziffs provided seed funding for the goliath Och-Ziff Capital Management Group hedge fund overseen by Daniel Och and also own Ziff Brothers Investments and its subsidiaries.

Daniel Och; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Och-Ziff teamed up with Schlumberger to lease the drilling rights to 85,800 acres in 2007 and 2008 on tribal land located in North Dakota's Bakken Shale basin, paying $14 million for the acreage. 

“Less than two years later, the Och-Ziff group sold the rights for $949 million,” reported The Wall Street Journal of the incredible return on the group's initial investment. 

The “Frackademics”

The study didn't become “frackademia” simply because of heavy-handed investors: two of the study's co-authors also have career ties to Big Oil, with one of them still working as an industry consultant. 

A. Daniel Hill

Enter: Texas A&M's A. Daniel Hill. A Noble Energy Chair in Petroleum Engineering, Hill spent five years as an Advanced Research Engineer with Marathon Oil Company before beginning his career in academia, according to his Texas A&M profile.

Daniel Hill; Photo Credit: Texas A&M

Jennifer Miskimins

Colorado School of Mines professor Jennifer Miskimins also has a career steeped in “frackademia,” beginning it as a Production Engineer, Production Supervisor, and Reservoir Engineer for Marathon Oil Company.

Jennifer Miskimins; Photo Credit: Colorado School of Mines

On top of her gig at the School of Mines, Miskimins also works as a Senior Consulting Engineer for Barree & Associates, self-described as “a petroleum engineering firm based in Lakewood, Colorado…offer[ing] consulting services for companies worldwide, specializing in stimulation and well performance optimization.”

Barree's website hosts three industry-written “Gasland” communiqués and another bashing the FRAC Act, which would mandate the gas industry disclose the chemicals it injects into the ground during the fracking process. Its clients include Anadarko, Chevron, Encana, Shell, Talisman (five of the nine sponsors of the EDF study), along with Marathon Oil, Noble Energy, EOG Resources, ConocoPhillips and BP

Miskimins also serves as Director of Colorado School of Mines' Fracturing, Acidizing, Stimulation (FAST) Consortium and all 31 publications listed on FAST's website were co-written by Miskimins.

Describing its mission as “practical research in the area of oil and gas well stimulation” and providing an “opportunity for graduate students to work on industry-sponsored projects,” FAST's member company sponsors include Anadarko, BG Group, Encana, and Shell (four of the nine industry sponsors of the EDF study), as well as Barre, BP, ConocoPhillips, Devon, EOG Resources, Marathon Oil, Schlumberger and Halliburton (which helped dream up the “Halliburton Loophole” trade secret exemptions for fracking chemical fluid disclosure in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the rationale behind the FRAC Act to begin with).

Maintaining a busy schedule, Miskimins also runs Colorado School of Mines' Unconventional Natural Gas and Oil Institute.

“As a domestic energy source, natural gas is abundant but 'locked up' in these unconventional reservoirs that we're just now beginning to really understand,” Miskimins told EnergyWire in 2009. “As a 'bridge' fuel to alternative energies down the road, we need to further our understanding of maximizing recovery from these types of reservoirs.” 

In March 2012, the Institute secured a $2 million grant - $1 million apiece - from ExxonMobil and General Electric, which it now shares with University of Texas-Austin and Pennsylvania State University, both of which had professors who co-authored the EDF study. 

GE and ExxonMobil doled out the funding “to develop programs to provide regulators and policymakers access to the latest shale resource technology and best practices.”

ExxonMobil - in turn - promoted the model bill for fracking chemical fluid disclosure arising from President Obama's industry-stacked U.S. Department of Energy Fracking SubcommitteeEDF had a representative on that Subcommittee: Executive Director Fred Krupp.

The model bill exists as a direct response to complaints by citizens about lack of industry fracking chemical fluid transparency due to the “Halliburton Loophole.”

First passing in Texas in June 2011, it eventually became a Council of State Governments model bill and then an American Legislative Exchange Council model bill pushed by the company's lobbyists at each of the two groups' fall 2011 annual meetings. 

Coming full circle then, Miskimins also formerly served on the Technical Advisory Board for Realm Energy International Corporation, purchased for $139 million by San Leon Energy in 2011.

“San Leon's Board of Directors said that it made the move in part to create a more focused shale acreage position in Poland's Baltic Basin,” noted an August 2011 press release. “In addition, the board said that it might gain even more access to shale if Realm's applications for licenses in France and Spain are accepted.”

In December 2009, Realm signed a partnering agreement with Halliburton to “continue the evaluation of high potential shale deposits throughout Europe and select emerging countries.” 

Realm Energy is now moving into an operational phase with our European leasehold and will contract with Halliburton to leverage its extensive shale-development knowledge, gained from Halliburton’s significant presence in the North American market,” Realm Energy Chairman Craig Steinke said in a 2011 press release

San Leon owns over 23 million acres of shale assets in Poland, Albania, Morocco, Spain, Ireland, France, Italy, Romania, Slovakia and Germany combined. Its current focus centers around Poland, Albania, Ireland and Morocco and it describes itself as “Europe's leading shale gas company by acreage.” 

One of San Leon's Partners - Talisman - was also a sponsor of the EDF study. In July, San Leon purchased the totality of Talisman's Polish acreage.

Through San Leon bought out Realm, it still maintains a close relationship with Halliburton, signing a Memorandum of Understanding in April 2013 to “develop a strategic relationship to jointly explore and develop the…unconventional gas potential in San Leon’s Wschowa, Gora, and Rawicz Concessions in Poland.”

Greenpeace USA, Food & Water Watch React

EDF believes the research - whose methodology is listed in-full online - will speak for itself, justifying the full development of U.S. shale gas assets going forward.  

The scientific talent leading these studies, the partnership with industry and access to their facilities, and the diverse research methods used, gives us the confidence that when the project concludes in late 2014, we’ll be able to greatly increase our understanding of the climate impacts of switching to natural gas from other fossil fuels, through this unprecedented collective research effort,” EDF Chief Scientist Steve Hamburg said in a press statement.

EDF explicitly states the study's findings - despite key funders profiting directly from the shale gas boom - will inform policymakers' next steps on shale gas. 

“The study’s measurements will help inform policymakers, researchers and industry, providing information about some of the sources of methane emissions from the production of natural gas and better inform and advance national and international scientific and policy discussions with respect to natural gas development and use,” EDF notes in their press release on the study's launch. 

Greenpeace USA's Executive Director Philip Radford unpacked a worst-case scenario of how the report will be used by Big Oil in the coming days, weeks and months. 

“At worst, it will be used as PR by the natural gas industry to promote their pollution,” he wrote on The Huffington Post. “In fact, methane is 105 times more powerful than carbon pollution as a global warming pollutant, so figuring out its real climate impacts has very real consequences for us going forward.”

Food and Water Watch was even more harsh in its assessment of the state of play. 

This industry-sponsored ‘study’ is more spin than science,” Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch said in a press statement. “The Environmental Defense Fund is running interference for the industry, and the result will be more drilling and fracking around the world.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Comments

The principal environmental consulting firm on the study, if I'm not mistaken is URS. Matthew Harrison and Al Hendler are co-authors of the paper and both with URS. URS is a multi-discipline engineering, consulting and technical services firm headquartered in San Francisco. URS provided environmental consulting services to New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) on its responsibilities for the Draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (dSGEIS). URS provides engineering and technical services for many things like oil sands exploitation in Alberta, Canada and engineering and well field services for shale oil and gas exploitation. Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein may have more information on URS. Both work for the US government. URS also works for DOD.

Thanks, Michael! Why do you think Nancy Pelosi and Diane Feinstein may have more information on URS? That NY fracking SEGIS connection - to say the least - seems very key. 

Representatives from the Bay Area maybe? I really don't know and I'm not trying to be fatuous. Modern day consulting, engineering, construction and technical services firms seem to cover the entire life and carbon cycles from knocking it down to building it back up.

This emissions study was suppose to be released during the first quarter of 2013 and open for public review at various draft iterations. Then it wasn't. EDF had indicated as such earlier this year on its website and then took that language out. Bottom line, I'm not happy with the way this study has unfolded. 

For what its worth:

Truthland, 16:58 into the film Jim Marston director, Environmental Defense Fund TX Regional Office, Travis County TX http://www.truthlandmovie.com/watch-movie/

Don't watch this load of rubbish?

 

This link will show you that this teacher- mom admits herself that her travel expenses and 'choice of experts' that she interviewed were all funded and arranged by the PA Independent Oil and Gas Association who also paid for the production and distribution of the film. She also admits she is getting royalty checks and that she and her family are desperate. 

See eight minutes into this film of a panel afterwards. Further, 57 minutes into the film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUfjWxpxORY&feature=youtu.be

Of particular interest are the comments section at this link, http://vimeo.com/44247121

He actually talked about gas migration.  Man! I can't choke that out of a company in Calgary.  Online, drillers will show up in droves and argue against anything negative about drilling in a CBC story.

We know some environmentalists don’t like the idea of working with industry to solve problems, but industry involvement is critical to understanding methane emissions. Estimates of methane from the natural gas supply chain have varied widely and have largely relied on measurements that are almost 20 years old. Radical changes in technology and industry practices have occurred in that time. There is no way to accurately pinpoint where and how much methane is lost today across the system without access to facilities – and getting that access requires industry participation. But the scientific team running the study, led by the University of Texas and a Scientific Advisory Panel, took great pains to ensure the scientific integrity of this project. And it was peer reviewed and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Some also take the position that anyone who has ever worked in the energy industry, or invested in it, should be barred from supporting or working on behalf of environmental protection. In reality, we need more industry leaders and investors to stand up for environmental protection. 

EDF has always used an approach that draws on science, economics, partnerships and bipartisan outreach. We believe that by working with diverse groups, we can bring insights and solutions that aren’t available otherwise. We think the environmental movement is a great big team. it doesn't make sense to expect everyone on it to play exactly the same position.

By the way, The University of Texas study does not conclude that everything is fine when it comes to methane from fracking. Far from it. Some measurements, such as leaks from equipment, were much higher than previous EPA estimates. In one area, well completions, the results came in lower than previous estimates because new EPA regulations requiring 'green completions' are starting to kick in. EPA got the rule right. It's a step in the right direction. 

But just one step. Some kinds of wells are not subject to the new rules. That has to change. And this study only looks at production, not the whole natural gas system. There are 15 more studies to go. But we already know that methane emissions are a serious problem, and we know emissions can be contained if we get strong regulations in place. So that's what EDF is fighting for. We need to go after every opportunity we can to reduce climate impacts. Stopping methane leakage is just one. Our work to accelerate the transition to truly clean, renewable energy is another. More on that at www.edf.org/energy

Here's the paper;

http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2013/09/11/1304880110.DCSupplemental

Peer reviewed doesn't make it true. Its merely the first step. I'd be keen to see this data replicated by other researchers from other organizations that are preferably not oil and gas related.  Good science stands the test of time.  Maybe you guys should partner up with the EPA Get them to pick the sites, that you measure.  That would be a very reasonable solution.

Stop resting on someone else's credentials.  The study linking vaccines to autism was also peer reviewed.  It was flawed.. notably it was very similar to EDF's study. It had a very very small sample size, and it had ties to a man who who's make a lot of money from it.

This isn't a scoop.  Steve gathers up data from public sources.  He always has. Collating it, and making easily understood is what Desmogblog does.  If anything this looks like a repeat of his previous work, but you'd have had to read his article fully to know that.

The method of study for the wells selectively chosen looked suitable and correct to me.  There is no explanation for why the methodology was chosen or a description of the alternatives, or what the particular strengths and weaknesses of the methods were, or even what the goals were for the measurement.

How come there is no statistical breakdown demonstrating that those 190 wells are representative of anything that is in any way meaningful?  Most scientists would mark that as a serious flaw.  Are they representative because it was Lobster Tuesday for the steering committee?  Let me be very clear, I cannot conclude that the authors have measured methane emmisions representative of natural gas wells using the paper they wrote.  There is no way I can make that leap of faith.

I'd like to know why those 190 wells were chosen from among 13000+ wells.  I would like to see statistical inferences that those 190 wells correlate to and are in any way representative the 13000+ wells drilled.

http://www.eia.gov/dnav/ng/hist/e_ertwg_xwcd_nus_cm.htm

So far, It sounds like we have a perfect precedent for your quality of work.  Its very precedented, and there is nothing new about it;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MMR_vaccine_controversy

How to spot bad science (he gets into numeric cherry picking later in the video starting at about 8 minutes);

 http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_goldacre_battling_bad_science.html

I gave it a positive vote. Thanks for the comment. Myself and the other members of the peanut gallery appreciate the input. I truly appreciate EDFs work. I just don't understand why they would want to do this. It's not like its 1985 and environmentalists and environmental government agents have the upper hand anymore.

All right here's some input into this matter. It may ramble and go off on a tangent. I'll do my best to keep it specific.

  1. Monitoring of fugitive emissions. While technology has improved in many areas, it all comes down to experimental design, sending out a field crew to setup, take samples for off site analysis, or incorporate and calibrate inline and real time automatic monitoring devices. Based on the figures provided in the supplemental information of the PNAS paper, the team still seemed to count on PVC piping, Swagelok(TM) fittings and tubing, plastic sheeting and duct tape. All of which have been around at least 20 years. More like 40. Where technology has improved since then is principally in electronics and analytical accuracy. For instance, field daddies may or may not have used iPads instead of Rite-in-the-Rain field books to record information. Other areas could be use of GIS, Google maps, computing for organizing and regressing a lot more data and the iphone for field crews to communicate and keep from getting lost while driving to the monitoring site. These technology gains and improvements have been well incorporated into methods all along. What EDF is bringing to the table isn't obvious to me. 
  2. Why UT and other institutions, including my alma mater Colorado School of Mines got involved in this effort isn't clear to me. There's academic research involving the study of environmental protection and remediation methods - usually at a laboratory scale to study controlling mechanisms and methods. Sometimes at pilot or full-scale - it doesn't really matter. Then there's environmental consulting and technical services. This study seems to fall within the later framework. A consulting firm(s) typically works as a contractor or owners representative to industry. In this case maybe it's directly to EDF. Typically, academia is put into a subordinate role to focus on the specifics, high-end mathematically modeling, innovative approaches, etc. So my question is this: is UT taking the lead on this effort? My next question is why would they want to do that? It all comes down to contracting and assigned roles. More specifically, who's responsible? Is it UT Austin, EDF or industry? Are the findings going to be handed over to a governmental agent like the US EPA to approve via public comment? Or are we to simply trust the findings and move on? Here's where I become a cynic. If this work falls outside of regulation at the state or federal levels, will EDF and academia, organizations that typically don't hold contractual liability, retain ownership? URS and other service based organizations typical do. As does industry and governmental agents.
  3. Finally - because I got other things to do - here's the qualifying language used for the preliminary report prepared by UT and others http://www.utexas.edu/research/ceer/GHG/files/FReports/XA_83376101_Final_Report.pdf:

————————-

DISCLAIMER

The scope of services performed during the Natural Gas Industry Methane Emission Factor
Improvement Study may not be appropriate to satisfy the needs of other users, and any use or reuse of this document or of the findings, conclusions, or recommendations presented herein is at the sole risk of said user.
 
This publication was developed under Assistance Agreement No. XA-83376101 awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It has not been formally reviewed by EPA, and EPA does not endorse any products or commercial services mentioned in this publication.
————————
 
I realize the PNAS paper was an academic exercise and not for use in contact sports. However, after the other 15 studies planned by the EDF team, will this type of language be used as research papers become reports supplimenting standardizede procedures?

Will one of your future studies attempt to tie this study of 190 privately selected wells to actual fugitive emmisions at all natural Gas Wells?

Your study does not explain how the 190 wells selected correlate to all natural gas wells drilled in the United States.  If I wanted to hide real data I'd ask the drillers which areas they have noticed the least completion flowbacks, and select those for this study.

I think that Ingraffea's comments about Westinghouse Effect are also quite valid.  Its best if you don't interfere with the normal operation of a site, otherwise everyone will be on their best behavior. This has a profound effect on any sort of measurement. (Just ask any epidemiologist who works with hospital safety.)

 

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