In the last decade, much work has been done to better understand methane (CH4) emissions from the oil and gas (O&G) industry in the United States. Ethane (C2H6), a gas that is co-emitted with thermogenic sources of CH4, is emitted in the US predominantly by the O&G sector. In this study, we perform an inverse analysis on 200 h of atmospheric boundary layer C2H6 measurements to estimate C2H6 emissions from the US O&G sector. Measurements were collected from 2017 to 2019 as part of the Atmospheric Carbon and Transport (ACT) America aircraft campaign and encompass much of the central and eastern United States. We find that for the fall, winter, and spring campaigns, C2H6 data consistently exceeds values that would be expected based on EPA O&G leak rate estimates by more than 50%. C2H6 observations from the summer 2019 data set show significantly lower C2H6 enhancements in the southcentral region that cannot be reconciled with data from the other three seasons, either due to complex meteorological conditions or a temporal shift in the emissions. Combining the fall, winter, and spring C2H6 posterior emissions estimate to an inventory of O&G CH4 emissions, we estimate that O&G CH4 emissions are larger than EPA inventory values by 48%–76%. Uncertainties in the gas composition data limit the accuracy of using C2H6 as a proxy for O&G CH4 emissions. These limits could be resolved retroactively by increasing the availability of industry-collected gas composition data.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Space and Planetary Science
- Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Atmospheric Science