Quantification of oil and gas methane emissions in the Delaware and Marcellus basins using a network of continuous tower-based measurements

Zachary Barkley, Kenneth Davis, Natasha Miles, Scott Richardson, Aijun Deng, Benjamin Hmiel, David Lyon, Thomas Lauvaux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), emissions from oil and gas infrastructure contribute 30% of all anthropogenic methane (CH4) emissions in the US. Studies in the last decade have shown emissions from this sector to be substantially larger than bottom-up assessments, including the EPA inventory, highlighting both the increased importance of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector in terms of their overall climatological impact and the need for independent monitoring of these emissions. In this study we present continuous monitoring of regional methane emissions from two oil and gas basins using tower-based observing networks. Continuous methane measurements were taken at four tower sites in the northeastern Marcellus basin from May 2015 through December 2016 and five tower sites in the Delaware basin in the western Permian from March 2020 through April 2022. These measurements, an atmospheric transport model, and prior emission fields are combined using an atmospheric inversion to estimate monthly methane emissions in the two regions. This study finds the mean overall emission rate from the Delaware basin during the measurement period to be 146-210MgCH4h-1 (energy-normalized loss rate of 1.1%-1.5%, gas-normalized rate of 2.5%-3.5%). Strong temporal variability in the emissions was present, with the lowest emission rates occurring during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, a synthetic model-data experiment performed using the Delaware tower network shows that the presence of intermittent sources is not a significant source of uncertainty in monthly quantification of the mean emission rate. In the Marcellus, this study finds the overall mean emission rate to be 19-28MgCH4h-1 (gas-normalized loss rate of 0.30%-0.45%), with relative consistency in the emission rate over time. These totals align with aircraft top-down estimates from the same time periods. In both basins, the tower network was able to constrain monthly flux estimates within ±20% uncertainty in the Delaware and ±24% uncertainty in the Marcellus. The results from this study demonstrate the ability to monitor emissions continuously and detect changes in the emissions field, even in a basin with relatively low emissions and complex background conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6127-6144
Number of pages18
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 6 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Atmospheric Science

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