Durango, Colo. – A giant, concentrated plume of greenhouse gas hovers over the San Juan Basin region of the Four Corners.
Scientists first noticed it in 2009. It’s mostly comprised of methane gas centered over an area that includes the Colorado towns of Ignacio and Bayfield, part of Durango, and part of northwest New Mexico.
How did it get there? And what are the risks to people living among it?
High Country News Senior Editor (and longtime Durango resident) Jonathan Thompson delved into those questions in a recent article. The San Juan Basin’s extensive oil and natural gas infrastructure is part of the culprit. The methane escapes from wells, pipes, and valves.
His story, Unlocking the Mystery of the Four Corners Hot Spot, appeared on August 13, 2015.
Listen to an interview with Jonathan Thompson of High Country News on the causes and risks associated with the methane field that hangs over the Four Corners:
Thompson’s research into the methane field “hot spot” took him across the region. He spent time riding along with scientists in what’s known as the “Methane Mystery Mobile,” an official-looking van with a long pole that measures greenhouse gas.
According to Thompson, the main ingredient of natural gas — methane — contains 30 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide.
He also explained how the Four Corners region became a methane “hot spot” and what the federal government can or can’t do about reducing emissions.