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Natural Gas and the Invisible Spill: How Much Methane Is Reaching the Atmosphere?

10 Apr 2012

TIME Science


"You wouldn't know it from the news, but there's a major fossil-fuel spill ongoing in the North Sea off the coast of Scotland. A leak from a gas platform operated by the French energy company Total SA was first detected on March 25 and has been spilling around 7 million cu. ft. (200,000 cu m) of natural gas every day since. Of course gas, unlike oil, doesn't have a devastating -- or visual -- effect on the marine environment, which is one reason the Elgin gas field, where the spill is taking place, hasn't become as infamous as the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico. But the leak is a disaster for the climate all the same; natural gas is mostly made up of methane, a greenhouse gas that has 25 times the warming power of carbon dioxide. Engineers working for Total estimate that it may take half a year to shut the leak, and if all of the methane released in that time reaches the atmosphere, the spill would approximate the annual global warming impact of putting 300,000 new cars on the road..." Read the full article here.

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