Oil and gas methane emissions 3 times higher than EPA says — study

By Shelby Webb, Carlos Anchondo | 03/14/2024 07:10 AM EDT

A new study found that emissions varied heavily across six major oil-producing regions.

Flares burn off methane and other hydrocarbons at an oil and gas facility.

Flares burn off methane and other hydrocarbons at an oil and gas facility in Lenorah, Texas. David Goldman/AP

Oil and gas producers in the United States may be emitting three times more methane than EPA estimates, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The study’s authors wrote that the oil and gas industry could be emitting an average of 2.95 percent of the gas it produces, as measured by aerial measurements and infrared spectroscopy data.

The findings come as efforts to curb methane emissions have become a focal point of the Biden administration’s efforts to fight climate change. EPA published a rule this month that will require oil and gas operators to update their equipment and take other steps to curb methane emissions from their operations and proposed another rule that will tie a fee to emissions.


Methane is among the most potent greenhouse gases — about 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere. The Nature study looked at six of the largest U.S. oil and gas producing regions — the Permian, Denver-Julesburg and San Joaquin basins in the western U.S., plus the Utica Basin in the eastern U.S., as well as parts of Pennsylvania and the Fort Worth region of Texas. Researchers found that emissions varied heavily depending on location.