US' Worst Spot for Methane: Four Corners

Site where 4 states meet produces triple the typical amount of the gas
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2014 5:18 PM CDT
US' Worst Spot for Methane: Four Corners
The Four Corners area, in red, is the major US hot spot for methane emissions, per a map showing how much emissions varied from average background concentrations from 2003 to 2009.   (AP Photo/NASA, JPL-Caltech, University of Michigan)

Put together all the methane produced by the coal, oil, and gas industries each year across the UK, and you'll have a good estimate of the amount produced in a small stateside area between 2003 and 2009. The 2,500-square-mile Four Corners region—where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah meet—is responsible for triple the "standard ground-level estimate" of methane in the US, Time reports, via a NASA and University of Michigan study. That region produced 0.59 million metric tons of the gas, which is associated with climate change worries, during that six-year period.

And the area has produced plenty of methane since before modern fracking began, suggesting another process may be to blame. Researchers point to natural gas extracted from coal beds in the area: "Thousands of wells" are engaged in the effort, and natural gas is between 95% and 98% methane, Time notes. The study, which used satellite imagery, suggests that officials are way underestimating methane leaks, the AP reports. But local residents needn't panic: Though methane is a global warming risk, it doesn't threaten health or safety in the area, the AP notes. Another big methane spot: the floor of the Atlantic, which keeps "burping" up the stuff, experts say. (Read more methane stories.)

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