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Journal Article

Methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure and use in the urban region of Boston, Massachusetts

Authors: McKain K, A Down, SM Raciti, J Budney, LR Hutyra, C Floerchinger, S Herndon, T Nehrkorn, M Zahniser, RB Jackson, N Phillips, SC Wofsy

Methane emissions from natural gas delivery and end use must be quantified to evaluate the environmental impacts of natural gas and to develop and assess the efficacy of emission reduction strategies. We report natural gas emission rates for 1 y in the urban region of Boston, using a comprehensive atmospheric measurement and modeling framework. Continuous methane observations from four stations are combined with a high-resolution transport model to quantify the regional average emission flux, 18.5 ± 3.7 (95% confidence interval) g CH4·m-2·y-1. Simultaneous observations of atmospheric ethane, compared with the ethane-to-methane ratio in the pipeline gas delivered to the region, demonstrate that natural gas accounted for ∼60-100% of methane emissions, depending on season. Using government statistics and geospatial data on natural gas use, we find the average fractional loss rate to the atmosphere from all downstream components of the natural gas system, including transmission, distribution, and end use, was 2.7 ± 0.6% in the Boston urban region, with little seasonal variability. This fraction is notably higher than the 1.1% implied by the most closely comparable emission inventory.

Journal Name
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA
Publication Date