New Satellite Data Shows Appalachian Basin Emits More Methane than Permian Basin

Photo: Ohio River Valley Institute

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

The Appalachian Basin discharged more methane last year than the Permian Basin —in Texas and New Mexico — leaving Appalachia the biggest source of greenhouse gases in the nation. Satellite data from Karryos, a global asset observation platform, showed that the Appalachian basin emitted 2.4 million tons of methane in 2020, while the Permian Basin emitted 2 million tons.  Forty-two percent of the Appalachian methane came from coal mines, while the Permian methane came from oil and natural gas production. Appalachia has produced coal since the 19th century, and it has recently become an important source of natural gas. The combination of coal mines and gas wells in the region makes it difficult to tell which are emitting more methane. 

Why this Matters: There are an estimated 538,000 unplugged abandoned oil and gas wells in the Ohio River Valley states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Kentucky alone, and plugging them could cost more than $34 billion. Capping all those leaking orphan wells and cleaning up abandoned mines will make a real difference in controlling methane emissions from the rust belt. as well as creating over 30,000 well-paying, local jobs at the same time. This study is the first time that methane emissions from coal have been quantified in a comprehensive manner. The results are startling: methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, so the Appalachian emissions match that of 30 million cars

Plug Ins

Karryos collected this data from the European Union’s Sentinel-5P and Sentinel-2 satellites, which monitor, find and allocate methane emissions across the world. This form of data collection allowed Karryos to measure the intensity of methane emissions as well as amounts, finding that the Permian and Anadarko Basins had a higher intensity of emissions even though the Appalachian basin emitted more methane overall. Because Appalachian gas is “non-associated,” it’s the only hydrocarbon fuel produced in the area. Meanwhile, in the Permian Basin, methane is a byproduct of oil production, so it is emitted more intensely. 

Karryos suggests that large methane emissions like the kind seen in Appalachia are a result not only of continued fossil fuel production but also of insufficient or poorly maintained infrastructure for natural gas gathering, processing, and transportation. Identifying the sources of this methane can serve as the first step in addressing emissions in the region. 

To Go Deeper: Check out these two reports from the Ohio River Valley Institute on how Appalachia can tackle the climate crisis while creating thousands of local jobs.

Up Next

One Cool Thing: A Breath of Fresh Air

One Cool Thing: A Breath of Fresh Air

Delegates attending the COP26 conference in Glasgow will get to see a very cool display during their stay. So cool, in fact, that it’s been frozen since 1765. Artist Wayne Binitie and scientists of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) have retrieved an Antarctic time capsule containing the world’s purest air. The pocket of atmosphere was […]

Continue Reading 204 words
EU Broke Air Pollution Limits in 2020 Despite COVID

EU Broke Air Pollution Limits in 2020 Despite COVID

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The European Environment Agency (EEA) found that a majority of EU countries broke at least one air pollution limit last year — despite COVID-19 lockdowns. In addition, 17 EU countries failed to stay below ozone pollution targets, which directly influence global warming; and eight EU countries failed to stay […]

Continue Reading 278 words
Jakarta Residents Win Court Case; President Must Address Air Pollution

Jakarta Residents Win Court Case; President Must Address Air Pollution

By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer An Indonesian district court ruled yesterday that Indonesian President Joko Widodo has neglected Jakarta’s residents right to clean air. In a unanimous ruling in favor of the 32 residents who brought the case, the Central Jakarta District Court ordered Widodo, and six other top officials deemed negligent, to improve […]

Continue Reading 397 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.