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Aerial surveys show US landfills are major source of methane emissions

Published 03/28/2024, 02:02 PM
Updated 03/28/2024, 06:30 PM
© Reuters.

By Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Over half of U.S. landfills observed by aerial surveys are super-emitting sources of methane, according to a new study in the journal Science published on Thursday.

The study is the largest assessment to date of methane from landfills, the third-largest source of U.S. methane emissions, and suggests an opportunity to tackle climate change by targeting a prevalent and potent greenhouse gas.

It was led by research group Carbon Mapper, with researchers from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Arizona State University, University of Arizona, Scientific Aviation, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Around 52% of landfills had observable methane emission point sources compared to the 0.2% to 1% of "super-emitter" sites in the oil and gas sector, the largest U.S. source of methane.

Super emitters are sources that spew at least 100 kilograms (100 lbs) of methane per hour, according to the EPA.

At large emitting landfills, 60% had methane leaks that persisted over months or years while the majority of leaks at super-emitting sites in the oil and gas sector were "short-duration events," the study said.

Dan Cusworth, scientist at Carbon Mapper and lead author of the study, said that pinpointing these leaks offers a quick way to target emissions.

“Addressing these high methane sources and mitigating persistent landfill emissions offers a strong potential for climate benefit,” he said in a statement.

So far, oil and gas has been the main target of emerging regulations and voluntary programs in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

But as more aerial and satellite surveys are launched, regulators will be able to measure, quantify and act on methane from landfills.

To date, companies and regulators have relied on model-based estimates of landfill emissions, as well as surveys with handheld methane sensors, which provide a less complete picture, the study said.

The EPA's own greenhouse gas reporting system has underestimated the scale of methane leaks in landfills, according to the study. Aerial surveys showed emission rates were 1.4 times higher than the EPA's estimates.

The EPA said that in 2021, 12% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities came from methane.



Latest comments

Methane is far more impactful gas than CO2. But fossil fuels and CO2 are easier to tax.
the oil industry is responsible for failures to regulate and tax methane emissions led by k street and conservatives in Congress. and they are a serious problem for the environment. they accelerate climate change.
you sir are a complete moron.
Thanks, Yeah your correct, like 80 times more potent than CO2. If we just put fire on methane we reduce the greenhouse gas by 80%. However the policy is to tax CO2 and not methane. Biden is just destroying the world as he hasn't got a clue. All the mining for the EV batteries is also polluting the globe! Is he on zombie drug or just senile?
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