WTAMU professor contributes to national study surrounding methane emissions

Local News

Courtesy West Texas A&M University

CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — One environmental science professor at West Texas A&M University recently contributed to a national study, studying methane emissions in the Unita Basin in Utah.

According to a news release from the university, Erik Crossman, a professor at the university’s Department of LIfe, Earth and Environmental Sciences in the Paul Engler College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, was one of the professors who contributed to a study recently published in Scientific Reports surrounding the methane monitoring site in the basin.

The Unita Basin has tracked emissions from oil and gas wells since 2015, the release stated. Since then, emissions have decreased by approximately 50%, but officials stressed that methane links are still occurring.

Through his portion of the study, Crosman said in the release that he analyzed complex-terrain meteorology for the study, more specifically mountain weather. Understanding the weather patterns can help quantify changes in human-caused emissions.

“The Uinta Basin is a deep, enclosed basin that has unique complex terrain weather patterns, which is one of my areas of research focus,” Crosman said in the release. “My main contribution to this research was to analyze the weather data to make sure that we could clearly understand the impact of complex terrain weather on the observed variability in methane… My research contributions showed that average meteorological variability during the periods being analyzed were relatively small, and thus further strengthened the ability of the study to quantify emissions changes over the multi-year period.”

According to the release, methane is the ‘gas’ part of oil and gas production. The overall study found that the methane leak rate remained at a “constant and high rate, despite decreases in natural gas production.” Along with impacts on climate, leaked methane can waste energy and increase costs for companies.

“The earth has only one atmosphere,” Seth Lyman, the director of the Bingham Research Center at Utah State University’s Uintah Basin campus, said in the release, “and emissions in one area can impact air quality and climate across the globe.  Oil and natural gas facilities are not evenly distributed around the state or around the world, but climate impacts from fossil fuels are not dependent on the location of emissions.” 

Crosman said he hopes other regions, including those in Texas which focus on oil and gas production, will monitor their own methane emissions.

“We need a more detailed understanding of how methane emissions are evolving, and observations like those we conducted in the Uinta Basin help toward filling in those gaps,” Crosman said in the release.

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