11 Dec 2020

11 Dec 2020

Review status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ACP and is expected to appear here in due course.

Concurrent variation in oil and gas methane emissions and oil price during the COVID-19 pandemic

David R. Lyon1, Benjamin Hmiel1, Ritesh Gautam1, Mark Omara1, Kate Roberts1, Zachary R. Barkley2, Kenneth J. David2, Natasha L. Miles2, Vanessa C. Monteiro2, Scott J. Richardson2, Stephen Conley3, Mackenzie L. Smith3, Daniel J. Jacob4, Lu Shen4, Daniel J. Varon4, Aijun Deng5, Xander Rudelis6,a, Nikhil Sharma6, Kyle T. Story6, Adam R. Brandt7, Mary Kang8, Eric A. Kort9, Anthony J. Marchese10, and Steven P. Hamburg1 David R. Lyon et al.
  • 1Environmental Defense Fund, 301 Congress Ave., Suite 1300, Austin, TX, USA
  • 2The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  • 3Scientific Aviation, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 4Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  • 5Utopus Insights, Inc., Valhalla, NY, USA
  • 6Descartes Labs, Santa Fe, NM, USA
  • 7Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA, USA
  • 8McGill University, Montreal, QB, Canada
  • 9University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
  • 10Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA
  • anow at: Google LLC, Mountain View, CA, USA

Abstract. Methane emissions associated with the production, transport, and use of oil and natural gas increase the climatic impacts of energy use; however, little is known about how emissions vary temporally and with commodity prices. We present airborne and ground-based data, supported by satellite observations, to measure weekly to monthly changes in total methane emissions in the United States’ Permian Basin during a period of volatile oil prices associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. As oil prices declined from ~$ 60 to $ 20 per barrel, emissions changed concurrently from 3.4 % to 1.5 % of gas production; as prices partially recovered, emissions increased back to near initial values. Concurrently, total oil and natural gas production only declined by a maximum of ~10 % from the peak values seen in the months prior to the crash. Activity data indicate that a rapid decline in well development and subsequent effects on associated gas flaring and midstream infrastructure throughput are the likely drivers of temporary emission reductions. Our results, along with past satellite observations, suggest that under more typical price conditions, the Permian Basin is in a state of overcapacity in which rapidly growing natural gas production exceeds midstream capacity and leads to high methane emissions.

David R. Lyon et al.

Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
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Status: closed
Status: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version Supplement - Supplement

David R. Lyon et al.

David R. Lyon et al.


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Short summary
The Permian Basin (United States) is the world's largest oil field. We use tower- and aircraft-based approaches to measure how methane emissions in the Permian changed throughout 2020. In early 2020, 3.4 % of the region's gas was emitted, then in spring 2020, the loss rate temporarily dropped to 1.5 % as oil price crashed. We find this short term reduction to be a result of reduced well development, less gas flaring, and fewer abnormal events despite minimal reductions in oil and gas production.