The U.S. Southwest's Four Corners area is a methane hotspot

The U.S. Southwest's Four Corners area is a methane hotspot
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The area in the United States with the highest concentration of methane gas is the Four Corners region in the Southwest.

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Methane levels in the area (where the corners of Arizona, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico meet) are more than three times the standard ground-based estimate of the gas, a study by scientists at NASA and the University of Michigan reports. It is just 2,500 square miles, yet produced .59 million metric tons of methane between 2003 and 2009. That, Time reports, is about as much methane as the entire oil, coal, and gas industries in the U.K. give off annually.

The study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, says that while the data was collected before hydraulic fracturing began in the area, there are still thousands of wells in the region that pull up natural gas from coal beds. Natural gas is 95 to 98 percent methane, which leads the researchers to think that the high levels of methane are caused by leaks in natural gas production equipment.

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"There's so much coalbed methane in the Four Corners area, it doesn't need to be that crazy of a leak rate to produce the emissions that we see," Eric Kort, the first author on paper, said. "A lot of the infrastructure is likely contributing."

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