Natural Gas Pollution Becomes Visible

Out of sight, out of mind. This certainly applies to emissions of methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas, according to a recent blog post by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

A highly potent greenhouse gas and the primary constituent of natural gas, methane is invisible to the naked eye, according to EDF. That’s one reason methane emissions, while a significant threat to our environment, don’t get the attention they should from policymakers or the public when compared to, say, conspicuous oil spills, the article states.

Luckily, optical cameras from FLIR, a maker of optical gas imaging cameras, make the invisible visible. “As you’ll see in the video, fugitive methane emissions look very much like an oil spill in the sky,” EDF wrote.

The company participated in a recent briefing on Capitol Hill, intended to educate policymakers on the negative environmental implications of methane emissions, during which they showed the video. “I was there and saw what impact these images had,” wrote EDF’s Sean Wright. “Around me, people were gasping as they watched plumes of methane leaking from well sites, processing plants and valves, pollution that was now visible through the infrared camera. We had already heard a number of great presentations on the issue that day, but once FLIR hit the play button, everyone got it.

“The ominous large black plumes of methane and other hydrocarbons show how methane pollutes our atmosphere, endanger workers, and risks the health of local communities.  Enough methane is lost each year to fill more than 120 tanker ships carrying liquefied natural gas, about $1.7 billion worth. This is massive waste, but it also contributes in a big way to climate change; methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short-term,” he added.

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