New Course to Examine Methane Emissions in Natural Gas

May 24, 2022

A new, two-part class through Texas Engineering Executive Education (TxEEE), the professional development division of the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, aims to give the energy industry greater understanding of how to utilize, manage and understand one of the world’s most important fuels while reducing the release of a potent greenhouse gas.

The new course focuses on natural gas, which is primarily made of methane. And it looks it how industry can cut back on methane emissions, which occur during production, transportation, storage and consumption.   

Why it Matters: Methane is one of the world’s most important primary energy sources, used in industry, agriculture, power generation, transportation and buildings. It burns cleaner than other fossil fuels and, over the last decade, has been typically less expensive. However, it has more atmospheric warming power than carbon dioxide in the near-term, so reducing emissions is key.

Because methane is a powerful, short-lived greenhouse gas compared to carbon dioxide, achieving significant reductions would have a rapid and dramatic effect on atmospheric warming potential.

“If all methane emissions from the world’s energy sector were eliminated, it would be the immediate warming equivalent of taking billions of cars off the road,” said Dave Allen, a professor in the McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering and lead instructor of the two-part course.

The Faculty: Allen is leading a project to develop a network of sensors that can better detect methane leaks in the field, an important tool toward curbing emissions. Project Astra includes many of the biggest energy companies in the world coming together to get a handle on methane emissions.

Fellow instructor Michael Webber is a professor in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering. His research group studies energy and environmental problems at the intersection of engineering, policy and commercialization. His team recently published a plan to get Texas to net-zero emissions while also growing the local economy.

“Methane is many times more potent than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere and is one of the most flexible fuels available for the world’s economy,” Webber said. “Controlling methane emissions will improve efforts to mitigate negative impacts of climate change while facilitating a vibrant economy.”

The Details: The two-part interactive webinar will happen online via Zoom. Part one is set for June 21 and 22. It looks at the history and role of natural gas supply chains and how that has led to increased methane emissions. Part two, June 23 and 24, will include a deep dive into the technical aspects of methane emissions, such as certification, quantification and mitigation.

For more information and to register for the course.