A new study highlights the environmental hazard of wells that are excavated to obtain natural gas, which are very often overshadowed, in terms of environmental damage, compared to oil wells.
According to research conducted by scientists led by Mark Zondlo, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton University, the wells used to extract natural gas from the subsoil lose massive amounts of methane. Methane gas is a known and powerful greenhouse gas. The researchers came to this conclusion by studying the emissions of natural gas wells in the Marcellus Shale area, a basin that goes from West Virginia to the state of New York on the Atlantic coast.
In the study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, scientists say that “10% of the wells represent over three-quarters of gas leaked into the atmosphere as a by-product of extraction.” This is the same effect, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, of what can be had with an average use of 500,000 cars, or 2% of the entire American automobile fleet, which therefore makes us think.
Gas leaks in the air can result from various factors, such as valves opening involuntarily or intentionally to relieve the well pressure. And given that natural gas is mainly composed of methane, one of the most powerful known greenhouse gases, even a minimal loss represents serious damage if it has continued over time. And this without calculating that a loss of methane still represents an economic loss as a completely wasted natural gas.
Fertilizers whose production is more environmentally friendly have been developed by a group of researchers from the Australian National University (ANU). According to the press release on the website of the same Australian university, it is a fertilizer as well as a cleaner for the environment even more effective than those currently on the market.
The fertilizer is made with ammonia, a known pollutant that can also be taken from watercourses, and from carbon dioxide, which can also be taken from the environment. So the fertilizer production process itself will not only prove useful for growing plants more efficiently but also for reducing pollution.
Through this process, the researchers produce citrulline, a substance that is also found in nature and that is rich in nitrogen, therefore useful for plant growth. This is the first research that considers the use of citrulline as a fertilizer and the results seem “very promising” as reported by Lee Alissandratos, a researcher at the ANU School of Chemistry and one of the authors of the research.
According to the researchers, plants fed with citrulline grew even better than those for which urea, a fairly widespread nitrogenous fertilizer, was used as fertilizer. Currently, urea based fertilizers are produced through expensive and unsustainable methods for the environment also because the process requires a lot of energy and even fossil fuels.
The method to produce citrulline-based fertilizer turns out to be much more sustainable, using enzymes and running in water without toxic by-products. Raw materials, ammonia and carbon dioxide, can be found quite easily in various waste streams, such as domestic sewage or industrial waste.
Candida auris, a species of fungus that causes candidiasis in humans and has attracted international attention since it was discovered in 2009 because of its high resistance to drugs and antibiotics of all kinds, could strongly benefit from global warming according to a new study appeared on mBio.
It would be the first case of a fungal disease that substantially emerges due to climate change, but this is quite difficult to prove. However the argument that the researchers behind this study made seems linear and logical: as the global climate warms up, some microorganisms, including Candida auris, adapt to higher temperatures and this adaptation turns out to be an advantage to creep into the human body, according to Arturo Casadevall, researcher at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and author of the study.
One of the factors that would support this theory lies in the fact that this fungus appeared substantially in three different continents almost simultaneously: India, South Africa and South America, regions certainly not geographically connected. Evidently something must have happened in a period of time that can be considered as short so that this micro-organism would expand so uncontrollably causing diseases in humans. This is where ongoing climate change comes into play.
To support the theory there is also the fact that fungal infections are not so widespread in humans, compared to those of bacterial type, for example, because most fungi cannot withstand the high temperatures of our body. The same temperature of our body is one of the mechanisms developed in human evolution precisely to counteract fungal diseases.
By performing various analyzes concerning the thermal susceptibility of Candida auris, the researchers found that the latter has evolved in recent years to withstand higher temperatures than most other fungal microorganisms. This means that the problems, over the course of this century, with regard to fungal infections, can only increase, as Casadevall himself states: “Global warming will lead to the selection of fungal lineages that are more thermally tolerant, so that be able to violate the thermal restriction zone of mammals.”