CEE Seminar: Isotopic Constraints on Methane Emissions from Natural Gas Supply Chain - Will Fugitive Methane Emissions Overwhelm the Climate Benefits of a Natural Gas Energy Future?

Engineering Hall 2430 Colloquia Room
Amy Townsend-Small, Ph.D.

Director, Environmental Studies
Associate Professor
Geology & Geography
University of Cincinnati

Abstract: Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and the dominant component of natural gas. Combustion of natural gas releases less carbon dioxide per unit of energy returned than coal or oil, but increasing natural gas production may lead to increases in methane emissions, which could overwhelm the climate benefits of using gas. But measurement of methane emissions from natural gas systems is complicated by the many other anthropogenic and natural sources of methane. My work shows that stable isotopes, particularly hydrogen isotopes, are excellent source apportionment tracers of natural gas versus other methane sources.

Bio: Amy Townsend-Small has a bachelor's degree in English literature and environmental biology from Skidmore College, and a doctorate in marine science from the University of Texas at Austin. Her dissertation research focused on interconnections between climate, terrestrial carbon cycling and aquatic carbon export in the Amazon River headwaters of Peru. She then worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Texas at Austin investigating the interaction between climate warming and carbon and nutrient export in rivers of the Alaskan Arctic. From 2007-2010 she was a postdoctoral scholar and project scientist in the Department of Earth System Science at the UC Irvine, studying urban greenhouse gas and water budgets in Los Angeles, California. Since 2010 she has been an assistant and now associate professor at the University of Cincinnati, where her current research investigates anthropogenic sources of methane and climate change feedbacks to the global carbon cycle.