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WVU researchers to track methane

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Researchers from West Virginia University's Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions will work with the Environmental Defense Fund to do a comprehensive study of methane leak and loss audits at five sites in the Barnett Shale region near Forth Worth, Tex. to look for potential climate implications.

The two teams from WVU did much of their work in October, led by Derek Johnson, the principal investigator and research assistant professor in mechanical and aerospace engineering.

"As the industry grows, it must grow responsibly," Johnson said. "Since methane is a potent greenhouse gas, we must conduct this and similar research to help minimize or mitigate its loss across the supply chain."

Johnson said this kind of research can help gain a better understanding of the methane loss associated with the growing sector, which includes natural gas used for power generation and also as a transportation fuel.

The audits are based on a measurement campaign that already took place in the active shale producing basin in Texas. The audits at those sites included pipeline compressor stations and injection well sites. The measurements will help to compare both bottom-up and also top-down methods for regional methane loss quantification.

The Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, or CAFEE, researchers used high-volume sampling systems and greenhouse gas analyzers using cavity-enhanced absorption to quantify leaks and losses at the sites in real time, according to information from WVU. The researchers also used an infrared camera from the National Energy Technology Laboratory to both spot and to record methane leaks.

The team also collected bag samples for hydrocarbon measurements with gas spectrometers. Exhaust samples were analyzed to determine the amount of methane slip from the dedicated natural gas fueled engines that power transmission line and storage well compressors.

WVU has planned to produce a report on the team's findings to contribute to a paper that will summarize the results from the various measurements taken as part of the coordinated campaign.

The combination of teams from top industry and academic research institutions from throughout the country worked together to collect methane emissions data using groud-based, vehicle and aircraft measurement tools.

The CAFEE team was funded by the Environmental Defense Fund, WVU's Energy Council and funds from the WVU George Berry Chair Endowment.