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Statler College of Engineering and Mining Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering


Studies have aimed to quantify methane emissions associated with the growing natural gas infrastructure. Quantification is completed using direct or indirect methods—both of which typically represent only a snapshot in time. Most studies focused on collecting emissions data from multiple sites to increase sample size, thus combining the effects of geospatial and temporal variability (spatio-temporal variability). However, we examined the temporal variability in methane emissions from a single unconventional well site over the course of nearly 2 years (21 months) by conducting six direct quantification audits. We used a full flow sampling system that quantified methane mass emissions with an uncertainty of ±10%. Results showed significant temporal variation in methane mass emissions ranging from 86.2 to 4102 g/h with a mean of 1371 g/h. Our average emissions rate from this unconventional well pad tended to align with those presented in the literature. The largest contributor to variability in site emissions was the produced water tank which had emissions rates ranging from 17.3 to 3731 g/h. We compared our methane mass emissions with the total production for each audit and showed that relative methane loss rates ranged from 0.002 to 0.088% with a mean of 0.030%, typically lower than reported by the literature, noting that our data excluded well unloadings. We examined natural gas production, water production, and weather conditions for trends. The strongest correlation was between methane emissions and historical water production. Our data shows that even for a single site, a snapshot in time could significantly over-predict (3×) or under-predict (16×) methane emissions as compared to a long-term temporal average.

Source Citation

Johnson, D., Heltzel, R., & Oliver, D. (2019). Temporal Variations in Methane Emissions from an Unconventional Well Site. ACS Omega, 4(2), 3708–3715.


This is an open access article published under an ACS AuthorChoice License, which permits copying and redistribution of the article or any adaptations for non-commercial purposes.

This article received support from the WVU Libraries' Open Access Author Fund.

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