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Modeling the Relative GHG Emissions of Conventional and Shale Gas Production

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015, 20:33 by Trevor Stephenson, Jose Eduardo Valle, Xavier Riera-Palou
Recent reports show growing reserves of unconventional gas are available and that there is an appetite from policy makers, industry, and others to better understand the GHG impact of exploiting reserves such as shale gas. There is little publicly available data comparing unconventional and conventional gas production. Existing studies rely on national inventories, but it is not generally possible to separate emissions from unconventional and conventional sources within these totals. Even if unconventional and conventional sites had been listed separately, it would not be possible to eliminate site-specific factors to compare gas production methods on an equal footing. To address this difficulty, the emissions of gas production have instead been modeled. In this way, parameters common to both methods of production can be held constant, while allowing those parameters which differentiate unconventional gas and conventional gas production to vary. The results are placed into the context of power generation, to give a ″well-to-wire″ (WtW) intensity. It was estimated that shale gas typically has a WtW emissions intensity about 1.8–2.4% higher than conventional gas, arising mainly from higher methane releases in well completion. Even using extreme assumptions, it was found that WtW emissions from shale gas need be no more than 15% higher than conventional gas if flaring or recovery measures are used. In all cases considered, the WtW emissions of shale gas powergen are significantly lower than those of coal.