Appalachian Basin Identified as the Largest Source Emissions for Methane in the United States

According to the European energy and environmental consulting firm Kyrros, the Appalachian Basin is the largest U.S. source of methane emissions when factoring in the amount of the greenhouse gas released from coal mines.

The Appalachian Basin, which lies under Pennsylvania, Ohio and other Eastern states, produced 3 million tons of methane in 2019 and 2.4 million tons in 2020, according to Kayrros, a consortium with offices in Paris and other cities. In comparison, the oil-producing Permian Basin, which is beneath Texas and New Mexico, produced 2.7 million tons of the gas in 2019 and 2 million tons in 2020.

Kayrros said it’s the first time that methane emissions from coal production have been measured. The firm used mathematical models and data from the European Union’s Sentinel-5P and Sentinel-2 satellites. The company plans to use the same techniques to measure methane from coal fields in Australia and China.
“The modeling approach used by Kayrros in the Appalachian Basin now makes it possible to measure the vast majority of methane emissions worldwide and add granularity to their types and sources,” Kayrros said in a news release.

While coal has been mined in the Appalachian region for more than a century, the gas industry is relatively young there and made up about two-thirds of the total methane emissions — 1.9 million tons in 2019 and 1.4 million tons in 2020.

Gas production in the Appalachian region is less emissions-intensive than in the Permian, probably because the gas is the primary product. In the Permian and other oil-producing basins, gas is a byproduct and is often burned in flares to avoid the cost of shipping it to market. The declines from 2019 to 2020 were likely caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, which cut into energy use, Kayrros said.

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