Controlling methane is a fast and critical way to slow global warming

Written by
Steven Schultz
Steven Schultz, School of Engineering and Applied Science
Sept. 19, 2019

Two teams of Princeton researchers, each working independently, have identified surprising sources of leaking methane, a significant greenhouse gas.

The first study, led by associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Mark Zondlo, found that gas wells in western Pennsylvania are “super-emitters” of methane. Denise Mauzerall, professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, and her team discovered that offshore gas and oil rigs in the North Sea are also major sources of methane leakage.

Methane is a significant greenhouse gas, and accounts for about one-quarter of the Earth’s greenhouse gas warming. Methane is roughly 30 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Both researchers sat down in 2019 with Princeton’s Office of Engineering Communications to discuss the specifics and significance of their findings.

“The fastest way to reduce the effects of greenhouse gases significantly is by decreasing methane emissions,” said Mauzerall, “because the half-life of methane in the atmosphere is about a decade, and it wouldn’t take long for the current build up to begin to clear.”

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