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Downward Trend in Methane Detected in a Northern Colorado Oil and Gas Production Region Using AIRS Satellite Data
  • Patrick Reddy,
  • C Taylor
Patrick Reddy
Independent Research Scientist

Corresponding Author:preddyresearch@gmail.com

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C Taylor
Ramboll US Consulting
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The oil and gas (O&G) sector is estimated to be the largest contributor to anthropogenic methane (CH4) emissions in Colorado. Since 2004, the State of Colorado has implemented multiple regulations to significantly reduce emissions from the O&G sector. The Denver-Julesburg Basin (DJ Basin) is a significant O&G producing region in northern Colorado, and O&G production here has steadily increased over the last decade. To assess CH4 trends in Northern Colorado, we selected CH4 retrievals from the NASA Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument for 2003-2020. The study grid cell includes Denver, Boulder, and much of the dense O&G production in the DJ Basin. We computed mean June-August ascending node AIRS 700 hPa CH4 for each year and subtracted mean June-August CH4 sampled at NOAA’s Niwot Ridge (NWR) station, a high-altitude background site. Differences represent estimated enhancement over background. Linear regression shows an annual change of -2.84 ppb +/- 0.8 ppb from 2012-2020 (R-squared 0.90) and an estimated reduction of 56% for 2012-2020, despite substantial increases in O&G production. Local CH4 enhancement is strongly correlated with surface measurements of ethane at Platteville which is in the center of the O&G fields (correlation coefficient 0.96), and this is evidence that reductions in O&G emissions are driving reductions in CH4. We conclude that AIRS CH4 can be used to measure the efficacy of emissions control programs in this region and that regulatory requirements are having an effect.
Dec 2022Published in Earth and Space Science volume 9 issue 12. 10.1029/2022EA002609