Scientific Publications

Airborne Assessment of Methane Emissions from Offshore Platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico


Methane (CH4) emissions from oil and gas activities are large and poorly quantified, with onshore studies showing systematic inventory underestimates. We present aircraft measurements of CH4 emissions from offshore oil and gas platforms collected over the U.S. Gulf of Mexico in January 2018. Flights sampled individual facilities as well as regions of 5−70 facilities. We combine facility-level samples, production data, and inventory estimates to generate an aerial measurement-based inventory of CH4 emissions for the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. We compare our inventory and the Environmental Protection Agency Greenhouse Gas Inventory (GHGI) with regional airborne estimates. The new inventory and regional airborne estimates are consistent with the GHGI in deep water but appear higher for shallow water. For the full U.S. Gulf of Mexico our inventory estimates total emissions of 0.53 Tg CH4/yr [0.40−0.71 Tg CH4/yr, 95% CI] and corresponds to a loss rate of 2.9% [2.2−3.8%] of natural gas production. Our estimate is a factor of 2 higher than the GHGI updated with 2018 platform counts. We attribute this disagreement to incomplete platform counts and emission factors that both underestimate emissions for shallow water platforms and do not account for disproportionately high emissions from large shallow water facilities.

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