Does natural gas system leak more methane than we thought?

Berkeley, California
Earth ScienceData Science
Ended on 2/16/17
Campaign Ended
  • $25
  • 3%
  • Finished
    on 2/16/17

About This Project

Many researchers suggest that the leakage of a greenhouse gas, methane, from natural gas (production, transmission, storage and distribution) systems might be much higher than expected, based on 'top-down' analysis of atmospheric observations, while new evidence questions the assumptions and methods used by these studies. I propose to conduct a meta-analysis of the data published on this topic and quantify the uncertainties using advanced statistical methods.

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What is the context of this research?

Natural gas has been increasingly exploited and used as a 'bridging' source of energy as we march closer into a non-fossil era. However, the favorability and priority of natural gas among other energy sources to a large extent rests on its environmental impact through leakage of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from various stages of natural gas systems. Numerous studies using atmospheric observations suggest that methane emissions from US natural gas systems might be underestimated by EPA ( However, emerging evidence shows that existing studies might not appropriately represent the statistical characteristic of methane emissions.

What is the significance of this project?

The official estimate of methane emissions from natural gas systems could be revised upward based on findings from studies so far. It is urgent and important to assess the uncertainty of these findings by considering all factors, especially the fact that the emissions estimation problem is likely more challenging than what can be dealt with by existing theories and methods used by previous studies.

What are the goals of the project?

The goal of the project is to reassess our confidence in findings from published atmospheric studies so far, which would possibly lead to upward adjustment of official emission estimate of methane from natural gas systems. Toward this goal, I propose to conduct thorough review and meta-analysis of data published in the literature so far, employing advanced statistical methods that account for the unique characteristic of methane emissions found recently.


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The funding I am looking for is going to be used for compensation for my labor of doing the work. I estimate that the work can be done in about 2 weeks (80 hours). The funding of $1000 is approximately my stipend for 2 weeks when I was a graduate student. I am going to use my personal computer to do the work at no additional cost for equipments.

Endorsed by

With the deterioration of global atmospheric environment, natural gas is thought to be an ideal substitution to traditional fossil fuel in fighting climate change and air pollution. However, the methane leaked in the process of natural gas exploitation and consumption may also cause greenhouse effect. Therefore it is of great significance to assess such effect of natural gas. Zhen Liu is a highly qualified and outstanding scientist in this respect. I believe he will get a convincing result.

Meet the Team

Zhen Liu
Zhen Liu

Zhen Liu

My expertise includes multi-scale modeling of atmospheric chemistry, air quality, and climate forcers; bottom-up and top-down emissions estimation; inverse modeling and Uncertainty Quantification (UQ). I earned my Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Georgia Institute of Technology. I have worked as a postdoctoral appointee at Sandia National Laboratories, where I led the development and application of a suite of computational techniques for greenhouse gas (GHG) transport modeling, inverse modeling, source attribution, and uncertainty quantification. I have authored and coauthored 15 articles in top peer-reviewed journals, including Nature Geoscience, Environmental Science and Technology, Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, Geophysical Research Letters, and Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association.

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