Executive Summary

In the United States, oil and gas development is a significant anthropogenic source of atmospheric methane, a potent greenhouse gas, that is 86-times as climate forcing as carbon dioxide over a 20-year timeframe. Quantitative optical gas imaging (QOGI) is a method of atmospheric methane and hydrocarbon detection that can help to quantify methane emissions. From 2018 to 2019, Earthworks conducted a field sampling effort to measure methane emissions from upstream oil and gas sources in several states, including three oil and gas basins: Denver-Julesburg (Colorado), San Juan (Colorado and New Mexico), and Permian (New Mexico and Texas). This report aims to contextualize methane emission measurements collected by Earthworks using QOGI technology across these three select basins in 2018 and 2019 using methane emission estimates and measurements from the peer-reviewed literature and emissions inventories.

In this report we (1) review and summarize the peer-reviewed literature, government reports, and emissions inventories on methane emission measurements and estimates from the fields, equipment and facilities where Earthworks collected their QOGI-based methane emission measurements; (2) discuss oil and gas production trends over time in these select basins; and (3) contextualize methane emissions measurements collected by Earthworks with QOGI technology using basin-level annual production, basin-level methane emissions estimates, and additional equipment-level methane emission measurements and estimates.