Large-Scale Controlled Experiment Demonstrates Effectiveness of Methane Leak Detection and Repair Programs at Oil and Gas Facilities

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Jiayang Wang, Brenna Barlow, Wes Funk, Cooper Robinson, Adam R Brandt , Arvind Ravikumar


The importance of reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations as a near-term climate action is widely recognized. Most jurisdictions around the globe using leak detection and repair (LDAR) programs to find and fix methane leaks. In this work, we empirically evaluate the efficacy of LDAR programs using a large-scale, bottom-up, randomized controlled field experiment across ~200 oil and gas sites in Canada. We find that tanks are the single largest source of emissions, contributing to nearly 60% of total emissions. The average number of leaks at treatment sites that underwent repair reduced by ~50% compared to control sites. Although control sites did not see a reduction in the number of leaks, emissions reduced by approximately 36% suggesting potential impact of routine maintenance activities to find and fix large leaks. By tracking tags on leaking equipment over time, we find a high degree of persistence – leaks that are repaired remain fixed in follow-up surveys, while non-repaired leaks remain emitting. We did not observe any significant growth in emission rate for non-repaired leaks, suggesting that any increase in observed leak emissions following LDAR surveys are likely from new leaks. Vent emissions reduced by 38% without a significant reduction in the average number of vents across control and treatment sites, showing the importance of both anomalous vents and temporal variations in vent emissions. Our results show that a focus on equipment and sites that are prone to high emissions such as tanks and oil sites are key to cost-effective mitigation.



Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences


Methane emissions, LDAR survey, policy effectiveness, oil and gas


Published: 2021-12-09 21:47

Last Updated: 2021-12-09 21:47


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors declare no conflict of interests.

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