Most of the remainder of human-caused methane, around 35 percent, comes from the fossil fuel industry. Methane can spill out from coal mines or waft from oil and gas wells. Plus, producing, storing and moving natural gas inevitably leads to leaks from pipelines and other facilities. “All along that pathway, there’s leakage taking place,” says Benjamin Poulter, NASA research scientist and member of a team of scientists tracking global methane sources and sinks.
A small portion of methane in the atmosphere also comes from fire, including wildfires, burning wood for stoves and heat, and igniting agricultural wastes.