2011-04-11 04:34:02Natural gas as bad as coal
Paul D


Intriguing post at Climate Shifts which suggests that a new research paper will find that burning gas is just as bad as burning coal:


2011-04-11 04:49:35
Dana Nuccitelli

Yeah I read a bit about that.  Basically the problem is that while natural gas burns efficiently, during the extraction process a significant amount is lost as venting and leaks.  Especially with fracking for shale gas.  This is pretty concerning, since the large shale gas reserves are what's helping drive the price of natural gas down.

2011-04-11 15:31:44
Ari Jokimäki


Curiously enough, I have a draft paperlist in my blog on methane leaks from natural gas production. Most of the available research on the subject seems to support this view that natural gas isn't actually much better than coal.

2011-04-12 19:58:06
Mark Richardson

Needs thinking about a bit more doesn't it?


Just comparing the CO2e is actually a really bad way of looking at it in the long term, as RealClimate explain very well!

2011-04-12 23:40:05


Hang on a minute: From Realclimate

 we still get the full climate benefit of reducing methane even if the actions are deferred to 2040. The same cannot be said for deferral of action on CO2 emissions.

Doesn't this potentially undermine the argument that natural gas is as bad or worse than coal, since almost half of the problem with burning natural gas seems to be direct methane emissions from leaks.  If we could find a solution to methane, its effects can be more quickly mitigated than CO2.  Admittedly there is no gaurantee of this, but potential technological development is another factor to consider.


In addition is it clear what the stabilisation concetration is for methane, didn't it appear to stabilise for a decade before starting to go up again? What is the latest trend for a matter of interest?

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying natural gas is OK, but beggars can't be choosers so lets be sure before condeming it so completely. With so much pressure on nuclear (Japan has just raised the severity rating of its nuclear crisis to the highest level) we only have renewables to fall back on.

2011-04-13 12:22:51Natural gas a lot worse than coal!


Natural gas contains radon, as do coal seams.  However, it is more concentrated in domestic gas supplies than in natural ground surface seepage.


It has been known since at least 1940 that oil bearing shales contain radioactive matter:

DOI: 10.1306/3D933230-16B1-11D7-8645000102C1865D
Radioactivity of Sedimentary Rocks and Associated Petroleum
K. G. Bell (2), Clark Goodman (3),
AAPG Bulletin
Volume 24 (1940)

Determinations of the radioactivity of 21 sedimentary rocks and 7 associated crude oils have been made by the precision method developed by R. D. Evans. The specimens consisted of cuttings and cores from wells in the Bartlesville, Cromwell, Frio, Woodbine, and Viola-Simpson formations. Considerable variability in radioactivity was found in the sandstones (1.4 to 0.19×10-12 gms. Ra/gm.) and limestones (1.3 to 0.18×10-12 gms. Ra/gm.). The radium content of limestones decreases with increasing purity. The shales were uniform (1.2 to 1.0×10-12 gms. Ra/gm.). Apparently, discrete mineral particles in sandstone and impurities in limestone account for their occasional high radioactivity. The radon content of the crude oils (0.47 to .05×-12 curies/gm. of oil) was in one sample 38 times, and averaged 10 times, the amount in equilibrium with the radium present. The results corroborate the inferences of former investigators that radon tends to concentrate in crude oils. Maximum radon content and maximum ratio of radon to radium were found in petroleum produced from a permeable, Oligocene (Frio) sandstone of high radioactivity. Cracking of hydrocarbons with generation of hydrogen has been proved by S. C. Lind to result from bombardment with alpha rays. The amounts of radioactivity found in these crude oils are quantitatively sufficient to cause appreciable cracking by alpha radiation during geologic time. These reactions, together with subsequent hydrogenation, may account for important changes in petrol um. This hypothesis would also explain the presence of hydrogen in some natural gases. The hydrogen content of soil gases is suggested as a possible method of geochemical prospecting for oil fields.


Not only have prospectors been advised to test for the presence of hydrogen: they also look for radioactivity.  It cannot be disputed that the fossil fuels industry is aware of radioactive hazards in their products.

"the single biggest source of radiation in our lives is radon gas, which seeps into people's homes from radioactive rocks buried deep underground.


In the big mines in the USA, the lung complaints caused by radon were referred to as "mountain sickness". 



The EPA was last year doing a study on water pollution from activities not currently covered by water quality regulations - including gas extraction by fracking.  While looking up data regarding radon in shales I found this website:


2011-04-17 19:18:09
Paul D


Gavin has posted something on it:


2011-04-17 22:55:21
Ari Jokimäki


Oh, by the way, I published my list on the papers on gas leaks last week.

2011-04-18 06:49:45


Any article about shales, fracking, leaks etc needs to address the points raised here, otherwise the trolls will raise the points for us:


2011-05-02 00:34:42
Paul D


Lobbying by fossil fuel industry:


2011-05-02 13:33:55
Julian Brimelow

Not to put a damper on this discussion, but I do not think that it is wise to be quick to exclude/alienate natural gas as a viable alternative to coal, at least in the near future.  Methane is cleaner burning and produces much less carbon when burnt, and has a smaller environmental footprint than strip mining (although I am not sure how true that is if one factors in seismic lines/clearings). 

As for fracking, there are definitely issues there.....so one should obviously try and avoid have to go that route for extracting the methane.

2011-05-02 15:01:42Watched Gasland on SBS last night
John Cook


Pretty shocking stuff, very good storytelling.

SBS had the temerity to broadcast ads for natural gas during the commercial breaks, very eerie.

2011-05-02 18:53:29
Paul D


I think the issue, especially regarding the Guardian article is the anti-renewables propaganda that comes with gas and other industries. They see it as a competitive energy issue and don't really care a great deal about the consequences.