EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Transient methane emissions in the Permian Basin

Daniel Cusworth1, Riley Duren2, Andrew Thorpe1, Philip Dennison3, Nicole Downey4, Robert Green1, Winston Olson-Duvall1, John Chapman1, Michael Eastwood1, Greg Asner5, Joseph Heckler5, and Charles Miller1
Daniel Cusworth et al.
  • 1Jet Propulsion Laboratory, United States of America (
  • 2University of Arizona
  • 3University of Utah
  • 4Earth System Sciences
  • 5Arizona State University

The Permian Basin is the largest and fastest growing oil and gas (O&G) producing region in the United States. Methane (CH4), a powerful greenhouse gas, is emitted from both routine and abnormal or avoidable operating conditions in the Permian Basin, including O&G production, distribution, and processing. The time scales over which these emissions persist is uncertain, and this uncertainty can lead to large discrepancies in bottom-up emission accounting. Here, we conducted an extensive airborne campaign across the majority (55,000 km2) of the Permian Basin with imaging spectrometers to quantify individual CH4 point sources at the facility scale. We revisited each source multiple times and found that CH4 sources exhibited 26% persistence on average. Persistence-averaged CH4 emissions follow a heavy-tailed distribution, with 20% of facilities constituting 60% of the total point source budget. We quantified the total CH4 flux in the region (point + area sources) through an inverse analysis with satellite observations, and find that point sources make up 50% of the regional CH4 budget. Sector attribution of plumes shows that 50% of detected emissions result from O&G production, 38% from gathering, and 12% from processing plants. Imaging spectroscopy allows for identification of flares, and we find that 12% of CH4 plume emissions were associated with either active or inactive flares, and often emitting above 1000 kg CH4 h-1, even under active flaring. These results show that regular plume-scale monitoring in heterogeneous O&G basins is necessary to understand the high intermittency of operations and resulting emissions.

How to cite: Cusworth, D., Duren, R., Thorpe, A., Dennison, P., Downey, N., Green, R., Olson-Duvall, W., Chapman, J., Eastwood, M., Asner, G., Heckler, J., and Miller, C.: Transient methane emissions in the Permian Basin, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-13824,, 2021.

Corresponding presentation materials formerly uploaded have been withdrawn.