Importance of Superemitter Natural Gas Well Pads in the Marcellus Shale

Dana R. Caulton, Jessica M. Lu, Haley M. Lane, Bernhard Buchholz, Jeffrey P. Fitts, Levi M. Golston, Xuehui Guo, Qi Li, James McSpiritt, Da Pan, Lars Wendt, Elie R. Bou-Zeid, Mark Andrew Zondlo

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29 Scopus citations


A large-scale study of methane emissions from well pads was conducted in the Marcellus shale (Pennsylvania), the largest producing natural gas shale play in the United States, to better identify the prevalence and characteristics of superemitters. Roughly 2100 measurements were taken from 673 unique unconventional well pads corresponding to ∼18% of the total population of active sites and ∼32% of the total statewide unconventional natural gas production. A log-normal distribution with a geometric mean of 2.0 kg h-1 and arithmetic mean of 5.5 kg h-1 was observed, which agrees with other independent observations in this region. The geometric standard deviation (4.4 kg h-1) compared well to other studies in the region, but the top 10% of emitters observed in this study contributed 77% of the total emissions, indicating an extremely skewed distribution. The integrated proportional loss of this representative sample was equal to 0.53% with a 95% confidence interval of 0.45-0.64% of the total production of the sites, which is greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inventory estimate (0.29%), but in the lower range of other mobile observations (0.09-3.3%). These results emphasize the need for a sufficiently large sample size when characterizing emissions distributions that contain superemitters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4747-4754
Number of pages8
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 7 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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