Variation in Methane Emission Rates from Well Pads in Four Oil and Gas Basins with Contrasting Production Volumes and Compositions

Environ Sci Technol. 2017 Aug 1;51(15):8832-8840. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b00571. Epub 2017 Jul 12.


Atmospheric methane emissions from active natural gas production sites in normal operation were quantified using an inverse Gaussian method (EPA's OTM 33a) in four major U.S. basins/plays: Upper Green River (UGR, Wyoming), Denver-Julesburg (DJ, Colorado), Uintah (Utah), and Fayetteville (FV, Arkansas). In DJ, Uintah, and FV, 72-83% of total measured emissions were from 20% of the well pads, while in UGR the highest 20% of emitting well pads only contributed 54% of total emissions. The total mass of methane emitted as a percent of gross methane produced, termed throughput-normalized methane average (TNMA) and determined by bootstrapping measurements from each basin, varied widely between basins and was (95% CI): 0.09% (0.05-0.15%) in FV, 0.18% (0.12-0.29%) in UGR, 2.1% (1.1-3.9%) in DJ, and 2.8% (1.0-8.6%) in Uintah. Overall, wet-gas basins (UGR, DJ, Uintah) had higher TNMA emissions than the dry-gas FV at all ranges of production per well pad. Among wet basins, TNMA emissions had a strong negative correlation with average gas production per well pad, suggesting that consolidation of operations onto single pads may reduce normalized emissions (average number of wells per pad is 5.3 in UGR versus 1.3 in Uintah and 2.8 in DJ).

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / analysis*
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Methane / analysis*
  • Natural Gas
  • Oil and Gas Fields*
  • Wyoming


  • Air Pollutants
  • Natural Gas
  • Methane