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Report: Methane Control Means Good Jobs, Cleaner Air

GRAPHIC: New analysis suggests there are thousands of good jobs in catching the methane leaks from natural gas wells and selling it. Graphic of a fracking well by the EPA.
GRAPHIC: New analysis suggests there are thousands of good jobs in catching the methane leaks from natural gas wells and selling it. Graphic of a fracking well by the EPA.
October 3, 2014

RICHMOND, Va. - Many oil and gas developers are letting a valuable product escape as they drill. A new report says more of the methane emitted from wells and pipelines can and should be captured rather than released into the atmosphere, and it describes an emerging industry that has made that a goal.

Andrew Williams, regulatory and legislative affairs manager, Appalachian region, Environmental Defense Fund, says methane mitigation has a bright future in Appalachia where new technology and skilled jobs have sprung up at dozens of sites.

"Tackling the problem of methane emissions not only has the potential to produce cleaner air, but here it's showing the high possibility of creating good-paying, home-grown jobs in manufacturing," says Williams.

The report describes eight types of technology used to detect methane leaks, improve the valves and seals in pipelines and drilling operations, and capture emissions rather than venting or burning them. It identifies 76 companies nationwide, operating in about 500 locations.

Report co-author and president Marcy Lowe of Datu Research says almost 60 percent of the methane mitigation technology and service companies are small businesses but in terms of protecting the environment, they're doing a big job.

"Methane actually has a very high warming potential, much, much higher than carbon dioxide so, it's a really powerful greenhouse gas," says Lowe.

As part of the battle to curb climate change, some states are requiring oil and gas companies to control methane emissions. And the Environmental Protection Agency has said it will decide this fall whether to pursue federal methane emissions rules.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA