Downward Trend in Methane Detected in a Northern Colorado Oil and Gas
Production Region Using AIRS Satellite Data
The oil and gas (O&G) sector is estimated to be the largest contributor
to anthropogenic methane (CH4) emissions in Colorado. Since 2004, the
State of Colorado has implemented multiple regulations to significantly
reduce emissions from the O&G sector. The Denver-Julesburg Basin (DJ
Basin) is a significant O&G producing region in northern Colorado, and
O&G production here has steadily increased over the last decade. To
assess CH4 trends in Northern Colorado, we selected CH4 retrievals from
the NASA Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument for 2003-2020.
The study grid cell includes Denver, Boulder, and much of the dense O&G
production in the DJ Basin. We computed mean June-August ascending node
AIRS 700 hPa CH4 for each year and subtracted mean June-August CH4
sampled at NOAA’s Niwot Ridge (NWR) station, a high-altitude background
site. Differences represent estimated enhancement over background.
Linear regression shows an annual change of -2.84 ppb +/- 0.8 ppb from
2012-2020 (R-squared 0.90) and an estimated reduction of 56% for
2012-2020, despite substantial increases in O&G production. Local CH4
enhancement is strongly correlated with surface measurements of ethane
at Platteville which is in the center of the O&G fields (correlation
coefficient 0.96), and this is evidence that reductions in O&G
emissions are driving reductions in CH4. We conclude that AIRS CH4 can
be used to measure the efficacy of emissions control programs in this
region and that regulatory requirements are having an effect.