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Concept: Methane


We assess climate impacts of global warming using ongoing observations and paleoclimate data. We use Earth’s measured energy imbalance, paleoclimate data, and simple representations of the global carbon cycle and temperature to define emission reductions needed to stabilize climate and avoid potentially disastrous impacts on today’s young people, future generations, and nature. A cumulative industrial-era limit of ∼500 GtC fossil fuel emissions and 100 GtC storage in the biosphere and soil would keep climate close to the Holocene range to which humanity and other species are adapted. Cumulative emissions of ∼1000 GtC, sometimes associated with 2°C global warming, would spur “slow” feedbacks and eventual warming of 3-4°C with disastrous consequences. Rapid emissions reduction is required to restore Earth’s energy balance and avoid ocean heat uptake that would practically guarantee irreversible effects. Continuation of high fossil fuel emissions, given current knowledge of the consequences, would be an act of extraordinary witting intergenerational injustice. Responsible policymaking requires a rising price on carbon emissions that would preclude emissions from most remaining coal and unconventional fossil fuels and phase down emissions from conventional fossil fuels.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Carbon, Climate change, Methane, Fossil fuel, Coal, Greenhouse gas, Global warming


Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing are transforming energy production, but their potential environmental effects remain controversial. We analyzed 141 drinking water wells across the Appalachian Plateaus physiographic province of northeastern Pennsylvania, examining natural gas concentrations and isotopic signatures with proximity to shale gas wells. Methane was detected in 82% of drinking water samples, with average concentrations six times higher for homes <1 km from natural gas wells (P = 0.0006). Ethane was 23 times higher in homes <1 km from gas wells (P = 0.0013); propane was detected in 10 water wells, all within approximately 1 km distance (P = 0.01). Of three factors previously proposed to influence gas concentrations in shallow groundwater (distances to gas wells, valley bottoms, and the Appalachian Structural Front, a proxy for tectonic deformation), distance to gas wells was highly significant for methane concentrations (P = 0.007; multiple regression), whereas distances to valley bottoms and the Appalachian Structural Front were not significant (P = 0.27 and P = 0.11, respectively). Distance to gas wells was also the most significant factor for Pearson and Spearman correlation analyses (P < 0.01). For ethane concentrations, distance to gas wells was the only statistically significant factor (P < 0.005). Isotopic signatures (δ(13)C-CH4, δ(13)C-C2H6, and δ(2)H-CH4), hydrocarbon ratios (methane to ethane and propane), and the ratio of the noble gas (4)He to CH4 in groundwater were characteristic of a thermally postmature Marcellus-like source in some cases. Overall, our data suggest that some homeowners living <1 km from gas wells have drinking water contaminated with stray gases.

Concepts: Statistics, Hydrogen, Petroleum, Hydrocarbon, Natural gas, Methane, Ethane, Shale gas


Engineering estimates of methane emissions from natural gas production have led to varied projections of national emissions. This work reports direct measurements of methane emissions at 190 onshore natural gas sites in the United States (150 production sites, 27 well completion flowbacks, 9 well unloadings, and 4 workovers). For well completion flowbacks, which clear fractured wells of liquid to allow gas production, methane emissions ranged from 0.01 Mg to 17 Mg (mean = 1.7 Mg; 95% confidence bounds of 0.67-3.3 Mg), compared with an average of 81 Mg per event in the 2011 EPA national emission inventory from April 2013. Emission factors for pneumatic pumps and controllers as well as equipment leaks were both comparable to and higher than estimates in the national inventory. Overall, if emission factors from this work for completion flowbacks, equipment leaks, and pneumatic pumps and controllers are assumed to be representative of national populations and are used to estimate national emissions, total annual emissions from these source categories are calculated to be 957 Gg of methane (with sampling and measurement uncertainties estimated at ±200 Gg). The estimate for comparable source categories in the EPA national inventory is ∼1,200 Gg. Additional measurements of unloadings and workovers are needed to produce national emission estimates for these source categories. The 957 Gg in emissions for completion flowbacks, pneumatics, and equipment leaks, coupled with EPA national inventory estimates for other categories, leads to an estimated 2,300 Gg of methane emissions from natural gas production (0.42% of gross gas production).

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Statistics, Mathematics, United States, Natural gas, Methane, Air pollution, Greenhouse gas


A quarter of all anthropogenic methane emissions in the United States are from enteric fermentation, primarily from ruminant livestock. This study was undertaken to test the effect of a methane inhibitor, 3-nitrooxypropanol (3NOP), on enteric methane emission in lactating Holstein cows. An experiment was conducted using 48 cows in a randomized block design with a 2-wk covariate period and a 12-wk data collection period. Feed intake, milk production, and fiber digestibility were not affected by the inhibitor. Milk protein and lactose yields were increased by 3NOP. Rumen methane emission was linearly decreased by 3NOP, averaging about 30% lower than the control. Methane emission per unit of feed dry matter intake or per unit of energy-corrected milk were also about 30% less for the 3NOP-treated cows. On average, the body weight gain of 3NOP-treated cows was 80% greater than control cows during the 12-wk experiment. The experiment demonstrated that the methane inhibitor 3NOP, applied at 40 to 80 mg/kg feed dry matter, decreased methane emissions from high-producing dairy cows by 30% and increased body weight gain without negatively affecting feed intake or milk production and composition. The inhibitory effect persisted over 12 wk of treatment, thus offering an effective methane mitigation practice for the livestock industries.

Concepts: United States, Milk, Affect, Cattle, Dairy farming, Dairy cattle, Dairy, Methane


Peat bogs are primarily situated at mid to high latitudes and future climatic change projections indicate that these areas may become increasingly wetter and warmer. Methane emissions from peat bogs are reduced by symbiotic methane oxidizing bacteria (methanotrophs). Higher temperatures and increasing water levels will enhance methane production, but also methane oxidation. To unravel the temperature effect on methane and carbon cycling, a set of mesocosm experiments were executed, where intact peat cores containing actively growing Sphagnum were incubated at 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25°C. After two months of incubation, methane flux measurements indicated that, at increasing temperatures, methanotrophs are not able to fully compensate for the increasing methane production by methanogens. Net methane fluxes showed a strong temperature-dependence, with higher methane fluxes at higher temperatures. After removal of Sphagnum, methane fluxes were higher, increasing with increasing temperature. This indicates that the methanotrophs associated with Sphagnum plants play an important role in limiting the net methane flux from peat. Methanotrophs appear to consume almost all methane transported through diffusion between 5 and 15°C. Still, even though methane consumption increased with increasing temperature, the higher fluxes from the methane producing microbes could not be balanced by methanotrophic activity. The efficiency of the Sphagnum-methanotroph consortium as a filter for methane escape thus decreases with increasing temperature. Whereas 98% of the produced methane is retained at 5°C, this drops to approximately 50% at 25°C. This implies that warming at the mid to high latitudes may be enhanced through increased methane release from peat bogs.

Concepts: Photosynthesis, Carbon dioxide, Bacteria, Redox, Carbon, Methane, Coal, Bog


Microbial anaerobic digestion (AD) is used as a waste treatment process to degrade complex organic compounds into methane. The archaeal and bacterial taxa involved in AD are well known, whereas composition of the fungal community in the process has been less studied. The present study aimed to reveal the composition of archaeal, bacterial and fungal communities in response to increasing organic loading in mesophilic and thermophilic AD processes by applying 454 amplicon sequencing technology. Furthermore, a DNA microarray method was evaluated in order to develop a tool for monitoring the microbiological status of AD.

Concepts: DNA, Archaea, Bacteria, Microbiology, Anaerobic digestion, Methane, Methanogen, Thermophile


BACKGROUND: The aim of this study was to screen various solvent extracts of whole plant of Torilis leptophylla to display potent antioxidant activity in vitro and in vivo, total phenolic and flavonoid contents in order to find possible sources for future novel antioxidants in food and pharmaceutical formulations. MATERIAL AND METHODS: A detailed study was performed on the antioxidant activity of the methanol extract of whole plant of Torilis leptophylla (TLM) and its derived fractions {n-hexane (TLH), chloroform (TLC) ethyl acetate (TLE) n-butanol (TLB) and residual aqueous fraction (TLA)} by in vitro chemical analyses and carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) induced hepatic injuries (lipid peroxidation and glutathione contents) in male Sprague-Dawley rat. The total yield, total phenolic (TPC) and total flavonoid contents (TFC) of all the fractions were also determined. TLM was also subjected to preliminary phytochemical screening test for various constituents. RESULTS: The total phenolic contents (TPC) (121.9+/-3.1 mg GAE/g extract) of TLM while total flavonoid contents (TFC) of TLE (60.9 +/-2.2 mg RTE/g extract) were found significantly higher as compared to other solvent fractions. Phytochemical screening of TLM revealed the presence of alkaloids, anthraquinones, cardiac glycosides, coumarins, flavonoids, saponins, phlobatannins, tannins and terpenoids. The EC50 values based on the DPPH (41.0+/-1 mug/ml), ABTS (10.0+/-0.9 mug/ml) and phosphomolybdate (10.7+/-2 mug/ml) for TLB, hydroxyl radicals (8.0+/-1 mug/ml) for TLC, superoxide radicals (57.0+/-0.3 mug/ml) for TLM and hydrogen peroxide radicals (68.0+/-2 mug/ml) for TLE were generally lower showing potential antioxidant properties. A significant but marginal positive correlation was found between TPC and EC50 values for DPPH, hydroxyl, phosphomolybdate and ABTS, whereas another weak and positive correlation was determined between TFC and EC50 values for superoxide anion and hydroxyl radicals. Results of in vivo experiment revealed that administration of CCl4 caused a significant increase in lipid peroxidation (TBARS) while decrease in GSH contents of liver. In contrast, TLM (200 mg/kg bw) and silymarin (50 mg/kg bw) co-treatment effectively prevented these alterations and maintained the antioxidant status. CONCLUSION: Data from present results revealed that Torilis leptophylla act as an antioxidant agent due to its free radical scavenging and cytoprotective activity.

Concepts: Oxygen, Antioxidant, Reactive oxygen species, Flavonoid, Chloroform, Methane, Hydroxyl radical, Lipid peroxidation


Livestock play an important role in carbon cycling through consumption of biomass and emissions of methane. Recent research suggests that existing bottom-up inventories of livestock methane emissions in the US, such as those made using 2006 IPCC Tier 1 livestock emissions factors, are too low. This may be due to outdated information used to develop these emissions factors. In this study, we update information for cattle and swine by region, based on reported recent changes in animal body mass, feed quality and quantity, milk productivity, and management of animals and manure. We then use this updated information to calculate new livestock methane emissions factors for enteric fermentation in cattle, and for manure management in cattle and swine.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Milk, Carbon, Mammal, Cattle, Meat, Methane, Enteric fermentation


The potential of using anaerobic digestion for the treatment of poultry blood has been evaluated in batch assays at the laboratory scale and in a mesophilic semi-continuous reactor. The biodegradability test performed on residual poultry blood was carried out in spite of high inhibitory levels of acid intermediaries. The use of activated carbon as a way to prevent inhibitory conditions demonstrated the feasibility of attaining anaerobic digestion under extreme ammonium and acid conditions. Batch assays with higher carbon content presented higher methane production rates, although the difference in the final cumulative biogas production was not as sharp. The digestion of residual blood was also studied under semi-continuous operation using granular and powdered activated carbon. The average specific methane production was 216 ± 12 mL CH4/g VS. This result was obtained in spite of a strong volatile fatty acid (VFA) accumulation, reaching values around 6 g/L, along with high ammonium concentrations (in the range of 6-8 g/L). The use of powdered activated carbon resulted in a better assimilation of C3-C5 acid forms, indicating that an enhancement in syntrophic metabolism may have taken place. Thermal analysis and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) were applied as analytical tools for measuring the presence of organic material in the final digestate and evidencing modifications on the carbon surface. The addition of activated carbon for the digestion of residual blood highly improved the digestion process. The adsorption capacity of ammonium, the protection this carrier may offer by limiting mass transfer of toxic compounds, and its capacity to act as a conductive material may explain the successful digestion of residual blood as the sole substrate.

Concepts: Protein, Carbon dioxide, Anaerobic digestion, Biogas, Biodegradation, Scanning electron microscope, Methane, Activated carbon


Methane produced by methanogenic archaea in ruminants contributes significantly to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The host genetic link controlling microbial methane production is unknown and appropriate genetic selection strategies are not developed. We used sire progeny group differences to estimate the host genetic influence on rumen microbial methane production in a factorial experiment consisting of crossbred breed types and diets. Rumen metagenomic profiling was undertaken to investigate links between microbial genes and methane emissions or feed conversion efficiency. Sire progeny groups differed significantly in their methane emissions measured in respiration chambers. Ranking of the sire progeny groups based on methane emissions or relative archaeal abundance was consistent overall and within diet, suggesting that archaeal abundance in ruminal digesta is under host genetic control and can be used to genetically select animals without measuring methane directly. In the metagenomic analysis of rumen contents, we identified 3970 microbial genes of which 20 and 49 genes were significantly associated with methane emissions and feed conversion efficiency respectively. These explained 81% and 86% of the respective variation and were clustered in distinct functional gene networks. Methanogenesis genes (e.g. mcrA and fmdB) were associated with methane emissions, whilst host-microbiome cross talk genes (e.g. TSTA3 and FucI) were associated with feed conversion efficiency. These results strengthen the idea that the host animal controls its own microbiota to a significant extent and open up the implementation of effective breeding strategies using rumen microbial gene abundance as a predictor for difficult-to-measure traits on a large number of hosts. Generally, the results provide a proof of principle to use the relative abundance of microbial genes in the gastrointestinal tract of different species to predict their influence on traits e.g. human metabolism, health and behaviour, as well as to understand the genetic link between host and microbiome.

Concepts: Gene, Genetics, Archaea, Bacteria, Evolution, Species, Methane, Greenhouse gas