METHANE IMPACTS of the Proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline/Jordan Cove LNG Export Project

METHANE IMPACTS of the Proposed Pacific Connector Pipeline/Jordan Cove LNG Export Project

Methane Release HOFO Report – April 9, 2015

Prepared by Mahkah Wu for Hair on Fire Oregon

2305 Ashland St #412, Ashland, OR 97520

The Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project is a proposed 232-mile, 36-inch diameter pipeline designed to transport 1.07 up to 1.55 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day (Bcf/d) from interconnects near Malin, Ore., west and north to the Jordan Cove LNG terminal in Coos Bay, Ore., where the natural gas will be liquefied for transport to international markets.

The Pacific Connector/Jordan Cove LNG Export Project, if built, would contribute the CO2 Equivalent of 18 Coal Fire Power plants initially (each averaging 3.5 million tons of CO2/year) up to 27 Coal power plants if operated at its full capacity (within 4 years).


Methane Release


The planned Pacific Connector Pipeline would move 1.07 Bcf/d of natural gas from the Ruby and Gas Transmission Northwest Pipelines to the planned Jordan Cove natural gas liquefaction facility in Coos Bay. However, the liquefaction facility plans to add a fifth and sixth set of trains after its first four years of operations, which will necessitate delivery of 1.55 Bcf/d of natural gas through the pacific connector pipeline. Although the pipeline plans to operate at 900 psig at the supply interconnections near Malin and at 850 psig at the Jordan Cove LNG terminal,[i] the pipeline’s maximum allowable operating pressure (MAOP) of 1480 psig allows for significantly higher pressure drops and thus greater delivery volumes.[ii]

The difference in liquefaction capacities has important implications for the chronic methane (the chemical name for natural gas along with CH4) loss that occurs at several points of the natural gas supply chain, most notably during extraction through fracked wells. In addition, the possibility of accidents and ruptures in the pipeline necessitates consideration of the impact of concentrated short term release of methane.

Chronic Methane Loss

Even operating without incident, the natural gas supply chain emits methane at several points, most notably during fracking extraction. In addition to fracking effects, natural gas infrastructure includes both intentional leaks, usually for safety purposes, and unintentional leaks, such as faulty valves and cracks in pipelines.[iii] Although proponents of natural gas are correct that it releases 50% as much carbon dioxide upon combustion relative to coal,[iv] methane gas has 86 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide over a twenty year period.[v] Thus, the improvements in carbon dioxide emissions must be considered against methane emissions when determining if natural gas is a viable ‘bridge’ fuel. A number of studies have considered this question, and while there is some disagreement on exact quantitates, there is considerable consensus that the amount of natural gas released is significantly underreported.

A study, “Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems,” published in the February 2014 issue of Science, synthesized findings from more than 200 studies. It found that nationwide rates of methane emission from natural infrastructure are 25-75% higher than EPA estimates.[vi] This, however, pales in comparison to misestimates made of the methane released during fracking extraction. Another study, “Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development,” published in the March 2014 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), directly measured atmospheric methane concentrations over the Marcellus formation in southwestern Pennsylvania. It found “large emissions averaging 34 g CH4/s per well from seven well pads in the drilling phase” which is between 100 and 1000 times greater than what the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates![vii] In response to these criticisms, the EPA proposed a new rule in January 2015 to require better accounting of methane released from fracking operations and natural gas compressor stations and pipelines.[viii]

Estimates of the total methane released by the extraction and transport of methane vary. On the low end, the previously mentioned Science study found natural gas leak rates of 5.4%.[ix] On the high end, a study, “Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production in North American tight geologic formations,” published in the October 2014 issue of Earth’s Future, used satellites to measure methane released in the Bakken (Montana and North Dakota) and Eagle Ford (Texas) formations, two of the fastest growing fracking regions in the country. From 2006-2008 it found leakages of 10.1% ± 7.3%, and from 2009-2011 leakages of 9.1% ± 6.2%.[x] Another study published in PNAS, “Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure,” assessed the benefits of natural gas usage over coal as a function of methane emission. It found that at a 5.4% leakage rates, natural gas is worse than coal for climate change for the first 50 years and at a leakage rate of 7.6% worse for a century.[xi]

Applying these numbers to the Pacific Connector Pipeline, the lower bound estimate of 5.4% leakage corresponds to initial methane emission of 21.1 Bcf/year, ramping up 30.6 Bcf/year once additional liquefaction trains are completed. The upper estimate puts initial emissions at 39.4 Bcf/year with the potential for 57.1 Bcf/year of emissions once Jordan Cove is fully operational. These values range from 1.5% to 4.2% increases in the United States’ total annual methane emission![xii]

Accidental Methane Loss

Although the amount of methane emitted in even a worst case scenario accident pales in comparison to the amount emitted in normal day to day operations of the oil and gas industry, the localized release of a large amount of methane can have catastrophic effects. A number of events might result in breakages in the pipeline, including earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis, landslides, and human induced accidents. In addition, incidents like the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico demonstrate that unforeseen issues can lead to catastrophic accidents.

The proximity of the pipeline to both the Cascadia Subduction Zone (CSZ) and the seismic hotspot near Klamath Falls is troubling—492 earthquakes have been recorded within 100 miles of the pipeline. Although many of these were of negligible magnitude, 24 were magnitude 5.0 higher, the threshold for which earthquakes have engineering significance. The two most recent of these significant earthquakes occurred in 1993 about 15 miles from Klamath Falls—the first was a magnitude 5.9 event, followed two hours later by a second magnitude 6.0 event. Most troublingly, a major Cascadian earthquake of magnitude 9.0 is thought to have occurred off the coast in 1700. These events occurred multiple times in pre-history and reoccur irregularly on ranges of 100-1000 years. A similar event would generate substantial vertical grounds shifts, potentially shearing the pipeline at multiple points, with lessening hazard in the eastward direction of the pipeline.[xiii]

In the event of a less serious accident that only breached the pipeline at a single point, gas flow would be turned off at the mainline block valves (MLVs). Table 1 shows the gas that would be contained between each MLV at both the initial operating pressure and at MAOP.


In the event of catastrophic leakage, the most immediate danger is, surprisingly, not from its combustibility—the natural gas would not have sufficient oxygen to catch fire and rapid depressurization would cool the gas. While a lack of oxygen would prevent fire, it would be a serious problem for any breathing organism caught in the rapidly expanding cloud of natural gas, including those that breathe oxygen through gills. This problem is not without precedent. Naturally sequestered carbon dioxide was disturbed by a seismic event in 1986 and killed around 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock by asphyxiation.[xv] Although this event was the result of 2.8 Bcf of gas, a significantly smaller emission killed 38 people in 1984,[xvi] so the comparison to the 86.2 MMcf potentially contained in longer sections of the pipe is warranted. It is also conceivable that a small break in the pipeline could occur without detection, sequestering much larger amounts of gas underground until it is released by aftershocks or other seismic activity.

However, the gas at the surface level would quickly dissipate. The mixing of the colder natural gas with warmer air would generate high winds, especially if the accident occurred on a summer day. As the gas dissipated, many highly flammable interfaces where air and natural gas mix would form, creating many possible ignition points. At its most flammable mixture with air, the maximum amount of natural gas between MLV 3 and MLV 4 would have a volume of 195.2 MMcf, more than the volume of eight hours of the Rogue River’s discharge. Given the scale of forest fires triggered by a lightning strike, unattended campfire, or even a cigarette butt, it is difficult to conceive of the fire that a cloud of gas a fraction of this size could generate.

These estimations are by no means the worst case scenario. They are assumptive of the operator’s ability to quickly shut down mainline block valves and of isolated breaks in the pipeline. An event like the last major Cascadian subduction earthquake could rupture the pipeline at multiple points and hamper the operation of MLVs, multiplying these impacts.

[i] The pressure drop is actually approximately 48 psi, rather than 50 psi, due to changes in atmospheric pressure between Malin and Coos Bay.

[ii] Draft Environmental Impact Statement, pg. 2-30:

[iii] America’s natural gas system is leaky and in need of a fix, new study finds:

[iv] Is Natural Gas ‘Clean’?:

[v] Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing, pg. 714:

[vi] Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems:

[vii] Toward a better understanding and quantification of methane emissions from shale gas development:

[viii] EPA Moves to Count Methane Emissions from Fracking:

[ix] Methane Leakage from North American Natural Gas Systems:

[x] Remote sensing of fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas production in North American tight geologic formations:

[xi] Greater focus needed on methane leakage from natural gas infrastructure

[xii] EPA:

[xiii] Draft Environmental Impact Statement, pg. 4-259 to 4-261:

[xiv] These values were computed based on a 36 in diameter pipe using a density estimated assuming natural gas in the following molar ratio: 96.5% methane, 6% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.8% ethane, 0.45% propane, 0.1% iso-butante, 0.1% n-butane, 0.05% iso-pentane, 0.03% n-pentane, 0.07% n-hexane (See ISO 12213-2 (2006) Natural gas – Calculation of compression factor – Part 2: Calculation using molar-composition analysis). Pipeline data was retrieved from the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, pg. 2-31:

[xv] The 1986 Lake Nyos Gas Disaster in Cameroon, West Africa:

[xvi] Origin of the lethal gas burst from Lake Monoun, Cameroun:

Jordan Cove LNG not a done deal. Call Gov. Brown! By Sarah Westover

Jordan Cove LNG not a done deal. Call Gov. Brown! By Sarah Westover
You may have heard that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) released its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Jordan Cove LNG Export project yesterday, recommending the Jordan Cove project move forward.  This comes as no surprise, since FERC is basically a rubberstamping agency and always approves energy proposals.

We want to make sure you know —- The LNG project is not a done deal. Not even close! Here are three ways you can help stop LNG in Oregon.

  • Call Governor Kate Brown on Monday, Oct. 5th at 503-378-4582.Our state agencies, under Gov. Kate Brown, have the power to stop the LNG project because the project violates many of Oregon’s existing environmental laws. State agencies have stopped two other LNG proposals in Oregon. Right now, we all need to step up the pressure on Governor Kate Brown to take action at the state level.  Leave a message asking her to stop LNG exports and stand up for solar power, energy efficiency, and other clean energy jobs instead. Click HERE for talking points and to track your call.
  • Tweet and Facebook the Governor this week!  Share your No LNG message with Gov. Kate Brown via Twitter at @OregonGovBrown, or on her facebook page.
  • Donate TODAY to get an Ad in the Oregonian asking Gov. Brown to stand up for Oregon and say no to LNG Exports.  Click HERE to donate. 

How can Gov. Brown help to stop the LNG Project?


Not only does the state need to conduct its own environmental review and permitting process, the state also has the power to challenge FERC’s decision. The EIS doesn’t consider many of the major impacts of the project including impacts to our climate, our streams and rivers and potential threats to our safety.  Because FERC failed to conduct a comprehensive environmental review, the state of Oregon has the opportunity to challenge their decision by filing a “petition for a re-hearing” which would require FERC to re-evaluate the environmental impacts of the project. If FERC refuses to reconsider their environmental review, Governor Brown can take FERC to court.

Oregon leadership and our state agencies have a precedent of stopping LNG proposals. In 2010, former Oregon governor, Ted Kulongoski, helped protect Oregon from a failed federal review process. When the Jordan Cove project was initially introduced as an import terminal, Governor Kulongoski challenged FERC’s inadequate review and publicly committed to take that challenge to court.

As governor, Kate Brown can…

  • Challenge FERC and commit to go to court if necessary.
  • Stand up to pressure to fast track required state permits.
  • Make sure the state considers the devastating impacts the federal government ignored and that should prevent the LNG projects from going forward.

Please make sure to encourage Governor Brown to use these powers when you give her a call this Monday.

For more information, check out the website at

Thanks for all that you do. Together, we can stop this project!

Sarah Westover
Southern Oregon No LNG Organizer

Frequently Asked Questions About the Jordan-Cove LNG Project:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Jordan-Cove LNG Project:


What is the Jordan Cove LNG Project?

The Jordan Cove project is a proposal to transport fracked gas from the Rockies and Canada across southern Oregon to Coos Bay where it will be turned into liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the Jordan Cove terminal, put on large tankers and sent overseas. A 36-inch gas pipeline called Pacific Connector would travel 232 miles from Malin to Coos Bay crossing Klamath, Jackson, Douglas and Coos counties.

What is LNG?

LNG stands for liquefied natural gas which is made primarily of methane gas. Methane gas is liquefied solely for the purpose of transportation and shipping. It is liquefied by being cooled at temperatures of -260 degrees Fahrenheit and takes up 1/600th of the volume that gas does in its natural state. ( 

Who is proposing this project?

Jordan Cove is being proposed by the Canadian gas company Veresen, and Pacific Connector is a joint venture of Veresen and Williams, an American pipeline company. (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS Executive Summary, ES – 1). 

Where will the gas come from?

Gas would be drawn from shale and conventional gas fields using the method of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” in Canada and the Rockies. (Whitepaper: Analysis of the EIA Export Report ‘Effect of Increased Natural Gas Exports on Domestic Energy Markets’ 1/19/2012 Prepared for the Jordan Cove Energy Project, L.P. pg.1-7) 

Won’t gas exports raise our rates at home?

Yes. Exporting natural gas would cause domestic gas prices to compete on the world market, raising our natural gas prices by an estimated 25% and threatening U.S. jobs where factories depend on natural gas. The Department Of Energy has determined up to 1.2 million manufacturing jobs would move overseas. (Department of Energy NERA Study, 12-3-12).

How will private landowners be impacted?

Approximately 157 miles of the 232-mile pipeline would cross private property. There are 704 affected landowners on or adjacent to the proposed facilities and routes. Many of these landowners will be threatened with the use of eminent domain for the pipeline right of way. Landowners will be offered a small, one time payment for the use of their property, while they will lose access and endure limitations on that right of way for things like planting crops, building structures, the use of heavy equipment, and the clearing of all brush and trees. (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS at ES-5, Appendix A, pg’s A-11, A-20).

How will this project impact our climate?

A recent article in the Oregonian shows that the Jordan Cove project, if built, would quickly become the largest source of carbon pollution in the state after the Boardman Coal plant shuts down in 2020. Jordan Cove’s power plant would produce 2.1 million metric tons of CO2 a year. In addition to direct power plant emissions, methane leakage at drill sites may bring that total to 57 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year. ( 

Will public lands be impacted?

Approximately 75 miles of the pipeline would cross public Forest Service and BLM lands. The pipeline would create a linear, 95-foot wide clear-cut, and in doing so, would degrade and fragment forest habitat for endangered species, increase erosion, cut forests in old-growth reserves and riparian reserves. Forest plans for these lands currently do not allow such harm to our public resources for pipeline construction. As a result, the Forest Service and BLM are in the process of rewriting their management plans so as to allow for pipeline development. (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS at ES-5 and 2-84).

Will Jordan Cove create jobs?

Jordan Cove claims it will create 150 permanent jobs at the terminal while temporary construction job numbers would average around 900. However, it is unclear as to whether these jobs will be sourced locally or if workforces will be sourced from out of state. Meanwhile, increases in our natural gas prices here at home will impact local businesses and has the potential to send our manufacturing and jobs overseas. Job loss will also occur in fisheries, oyster farms, tourism and more in the Coos Bay area due to the degradation of habitat and natural resources that these jobs depend upon. Recent studies have found that for every $1 million dollars invested in renewable energy development, 17 jobs are created which is more than three times as many as the 5 created for fossil fuel investments. (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS at 4-786). ( 

How are water resources and salmon impacted?

The proposed Pacific Connector pipeline would cross 400 bodies of water in the Coos, Coquille, Umpqua, Rogue and Klamath watersheds. These crossings would require extensive riparian clearing that would reduce shade increasing water temperatures in streams that already violate temperature standards for salmon and other cold-water fish. Construction of the pipeline would cause increased sedimentation in streams and rivers, which impacts fish and their habitat. Many of the streams and rivers that the pipeline would cross are home to native salmon that are in many cases already facing extinction. The amount of material that would be dredged out of the Coos Bay estuary and removed from streams is over 6 million cubic yards and would fill the Rosebowl stadium in Pasadena nearly 15 times! (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS at 2-26). 

Are there endangered species that will be threatened?

The project would impact 32 federally endangered or threatened species, including Coho salmon, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, six species of whale and four species of sea turtle. Extensive dredging for the terminal construction in the Coos bay estuary would have an enormous impact on sensitive estuarine habitats and marine species. (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS, 5-14, 5.17).

Who authorizes the project?

There are a huge number of approvals the companies would need to acquire at the federal, state and county levels. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the lead federal agency to evaluate the proposal. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality and Department of State Lands will process applications for the use of state lands, impacts to water bodies and the dredging proposal at Coos Bay. The Oregon Department of Energy, Oregon Water Resources Department,  Forest Service, BLM, US Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Fisheries, US Department of Energy, and US Army Corps of Engineers all have roles to play in evaluating, granting, or denying the necessary permits for the project. (Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connector Gas Pipeline Project 2014 DEIS, pg’s 1-2, 1-12, 1-17, 1-18).

How safe is this project? 

We are seeing more and more that fossil fuel exports are not safe. Over the last year alone, the Williams Company has had four gas infrastructure explosions in the US, injuring workers and evacuating towns. Much of the Pacific Connector pipeline is proposed to travel through rural areas using much lower safety standards for the pipeline than in more populated areas. Senator Ron Wyden has even addressed safety concerns about the project and that they need to be thoroughly addressed. ( (