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Energy & Science

Unregulated Texas Gas Pipeline Triggers a Huge Methane Leak

A leak that lasted a little more than an hour on a natural-gas pipeline in Texas  had the same estimated warming impact as the annual emissions from 16,000 cars.

An exposed gas pipeline in Texas.

An exposed gas pipeline in Texas.

Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg

A natural gas pipeline in Texas leaked so much of the super-potent greenhouse gas methane in little more than an hour that by one estimate its climate impact was equivalent to the annual emissions from about 16,000 U.S. cars.

The leak came from a 16-inch (41-centimeter) pipe that’s a tiny part of a vast web of unregulated gathering lines across the U.S., linking production fields and other sites to bigger transmission lines. Although new federal reporting requirements start next month for these pipes, the incident highlights the massive climate damage even minor parts of the network can inflict.