Using Common Boundaries to Assess Methane Emissions: A Life Cycle Evaluation of Natural Gas and Coal Power Systems

There is consensus on the importance of upstream methane (CH4) emissions to the life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of natural gas systems, but inconsistencies among recent studies explain why some researchers calculate a CH4 emission rate of less than 1% whereas others calculate a CH4 emission rate as high as 10%. These inconsistencies arise from differences in data collection methods, data collection time frames, and system boundaries. This analysis focuses on system boundary inconsistencies. Our results show that the calculated CH4 emission rate can increase nearly fourfold not by changing the magnitude of any particular emission source, but by merely changing the portions of the supply chain that are included within the system boundary.

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