Study finds reservoirs produce about 1.3% of total greenhouse gas emissions

The world’s reservoirs produce about 1.3% of all greenhouse gases produced by humans, according to researchers at Washington State University.

The scientists say reservoirs are a particularly important source of methane, with reservoirs emitting 25% more methane acre per acre than previously thought. The WSU researchers say “reservoirs tend to have flooded large amounts of organic matter that produce carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide as they decompose.”

Another finding of this research is that “the total global warming effect of a reservoir is best predicted by how biologically productive it is, with more algae and nutrient rich systems producing more methane.”

The study was a literature review of 100 research papers published on the topic since 2000.

Funding sources for this research work include the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Climate Preparedness and Resilience Programs, National Science Foundation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The National Hydropower Association released a statement in reaction to the report:

"It should be clearly noted that conclusions from the existing research on reservoir emissions is mixed. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy's Hydropower Vision Report released this July states that studies surrounding GHG reservoir emissions are filled with large uncertainties. Additionally, some of the existing data is for reservoirs in regions with characteristics not comparable to U.S. reservoirs. 

 "If methane emissions are an issue, it is one for freshwater systems in general, not centered on hydropower generation itself. Determining the net emissions differential between natural rivers and reservoirs and man-made reservoirs, is a complex calculation dependent on many factors for which more investigation is needed and for which the scientific community has yet to reach consensus.

 "Most importantly, ascribing all methane emissions, if any, solely to hydropower generation would be inaccurate. … In fact, only 3 percent of U.S. dams even have hydropower plants associated with them.”

 The National Hydropower Association has released a statement on this research:

"Hydropower, America's single largest source of renewable energy, is helping the nation reduce its carbon footprint. It is also experiencing a renaissance because of its clean energy attributes. To be sure, hydropower is needed to meet federal and state clean energy goals.

"It appears that the paper by Washington State University (WSU) is not based on new research on the issue, but is a review of 100 research papers published on the reservoir emissions since 2000.

 "It should be clearly noted that conclusions from the existing research on reservoir emissions is mixed. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy's Hydropower Vision Report released this July states that studies surrounding GHG reservoir emissions are filled with large uncertainties. Additionally, some of the existing data is for reservoirs in regions with characteristics not comparable to U.S. reservoirs. 

"If methane emissions are an issue, it is one for freshwater systems in general, not centered on hydropower generation itself. Determining the net emissions differential between natural rivers and reservoirs and man-made reservoirs, is a complex calculation dependent on many factors for which more investigation is needed and for which the scientific community has yet to reach consensus.

 "Without question, the science on reservoir emissions is far from settled as the recent set of news articles appear to imply. In fact, some of the research has found that reservoirs may also act as carbon sinks, absorbing and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

 "Most importantly, ascribing all methane emissions, if any, solely to hydropower generation would be inaccurate. Particularly when hydropower generation - water flowing through a turbine - is a renewable form of producing electricity and reservoirs, in general, are built for many different purposes including: municipal water supply; irrigation; flood control; and navigation. In fact, only 3 percent of U.S. dams even have hydropower plants associated with them.

 "Hydropower provides many benefits in the fight to address climate change and for cleaner air. The DOE Report estimates that increasing hydropower's capacity by 50 gigawatts by 2050 reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 5.6 billion metric tons and saves $209 billion in avoided global damages from GHG emissions, including $185 billion in savings from the existing hydropower fleet being operated through 2050.

 "The Report also finds that the cumulative reduction in other air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, and particulate matter due to the existing hydro fleet results in nearly 5 million fewer cases of acute respiratory symptoms and 750,000 fewer cases of childhood asthma.

 "Let's not lose sight of what we know for certain about hydropower - it has greatly contributed to a healthier environment and can sustainably grow to do more."

Did You Like this Article? Get All the Energy Industry News Delivered to Your Inbox

Subscribe to an email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest news and information.

 Subscribe Now

Whitepapers

The Time is Right for Optimum Reliability: Capital-Intensive Industries and Asset Performance Management

Imagine a plant that is no longer at risk of a random shutdown. Imagine not worrying about losing...

Going Digital: The New Normal in Oil & Gas

In this whitepaper you will learn how Keystone Engineering, ONGC, and Saipem are using software t...

Maximizing Operational Excellence

In a recent survey conducted by PennEnergy Research, 70% of surveyed energy industry professional...

Leveraging the Power of Information in the Energy Industry

Information Governance is about more than compliance. It’s about using your information to drive ...

Latest PennEnergy Jobs

PennEnergy Oil & Gas Jobs