Source: Chad Teer/CC BY 2.0Source: Chad Teer/CC BY 2.0Research from the University of Michigan has revealed that U.S. offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico are emitting roughly double the amount of methane, which is a greenhouse gas, than previously reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The team used a research plane to collect air samples from above oil platforms in the Gulf using tubes attached to the plane’s wings that draw in air and pump it to the research team’s equipment to measure methane amounts. Based on those measurements, the team determined that the platforms are emitting roughly one-half a teragram of methane annually.

The research team suggests that the discrepancies between the EPA estimates and the University of Michigan estimates are due to missing counts from the U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory, which tracks the counts of more than 1,300 offshore facilities in the Gulf; errors in platform counts; and inconsistent spikes in methane emissions from older facilities in shallow waters to name just a few of the reasons.

According to Eric Kort, a University of Michigan associate professor of climate and space sciences and engineering: "We have known onshore oil and gas production often emits more methane than inventoried. With this study we show that this is also the case for offshore production, and that these discrepancies are large," Kort said. "By starting to identify and quantify the problem, with a particular focus on larger shallow water facilities, we can work towards finding optimal mitigation solutions."

Following this finding, officials from the EPA are reportedly correcting their previous estimates.

The University of Michigan research appears in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com