A methane well that leaked for 6 months has released a year's worth of emissions for 791,000 cars: report

  • A well in Kazakhstan leaked 140,000 tons of methane into Earth's atmosphere in 2023, scientists say.

  • That's equal to nearly enough gas for nearly 800,000 cars over a year.

  • Methane is estimated to be about 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide in global warming.

A methane well in Kazakhstan is estimated to have released 140,000 tons of gas into Earth's atmosphere, as it leaked for 205 days in one of the world's worst-ever blowouts, environmental scientists said.

The new figures were reported in a pre-print analysis by research teams from France, Spain, and the Netherlands. It was released on Tuesday but has not been peer-reviewed.

The BBC also published an analysis on Thursday about the scientists' findings.

Using satellite data, the scientists said they documented some 127,000 metric tons of methane ejected in the Karaturun East oil field in 2023, when a fire there lasted from June to December.

That amount of methane is equal to emissions from 791,318 gas-powered cars being driven over a year, per the Environment Protection Agency website's calculators.

Methane is estimated to have around 28 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. It also accounts for 30% of the world's rise in temperatures since the Industrial Revolution.

The Karaturun leak began during exploration drilling at the well on June 9, when a blowout created a 32-foot-high fire and a 50-foot-wide crater that made it difficult to seal up.

It was eventually plugged on December 25 when well operator Buzachi Neft injected drilling mud into the wellbore, per oil and gas newspaper Upstream.

The scientists in Europe said it's often difficult to measure how much gas is released in remote leaks like this one, and that they showed how satellite data could be effective in assessing the damage or in discovering unreported leaks.

They detected 115 methane emissions over the six months of the Kazakh leak, their analysis said.

The Kazakh leak is one of the most disastrous ever recorded, according to Luis Guanter of the Polytechnic University of Valencia, who was part of the research team.

He told the BBC that "only the Nord Stream sabotage may have led to a stronger leak."

Buzachi Neft, the operator of the well, denied to the outlet that such a vast amount of methane was leaked, saying only a "negligible" amount was released.

Buzachi Neft did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside regular business hours by Business Insider.

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