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Why Methane GHG emmisions

Until recently, methane emissions received too little attention. Plans to reduce

greenhouse gas emissions largely concentrated on carbon dioxide (CO2), a more

abundant and longer-lived pollutant. But in the past few years, scientists have made

significant progress in highlighting the scale of methane emissions. Studies estimate

that methane emissions account for 25–30 percent of global warming since the pre-

industrial era. Global methane emissions dropped in 2020 due to Covid-19, but the IEA

estimates that they rose again last year as economic activity and energy output picked

up. China, Russia, and the United States were the top three methane emitters last year,

collectively accounting for about 47 percent of the global total.

Methane emissions occur naturally and from human activity. Natural sources

such as wetlands and permafrost account for about 40 percent of global methane

emissions. In terms of anthropogenic methane emissions, approximately 25 percent to

30 percent come from the agricultural sector, 25 percent from oil and gas, 15 percent

from coal mining, and the remainder from waste and other sources.

The IEA estimates that oil and gas make up more than 60 percent of total energy emissions.

Emissions in the sector occur from venting, incomplete or inefficient flaring that fails

to combust methane, or fugitive emissions. The last category includes unintentional

leaks from many sources, such as pneumatic controllers, valves, pumps, and storage

tanks. The extent of emissions from the oil and gas sector is still being uncovered.

Recent studies suggest that “bottom-up” inventory-based estimates have significantly

underestimated oil and gas methane emissions.

The rapid technological developments create several challenges for regulators.

Regulatory agencies need to know which data to trust. An ever-growing number

of start-up companies are offering new detection systems, but regulators need to

compare results before deciding which technology or platforms are reliable. It is

challenging to design regulations that encourage operators to adopt the best possible

detection technology without being overly prescriptive.

Companies are sorting through many providers and technology platforms.

Continuous monitoring will soon provide companies with a wealth of data on methane

emissions, but for now it is difficult to decide which vendor to choose and how much

to invest in various technologies. It also remains uncertain how companies can best

integrate ground-based monitoring data, aerial surveys, and satellite data. Oil field

service and cloud computing companies are tackling the issue of data analysis and

integration in decisionmaking. Transnational collaborations like the International

Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) are working on generating comprehensive

methane emissions data sets (see following section).

What is clear is that both the scale of the methane emissions challenge and

the technology and knowledge to address it are developing quickly. New rules and

regulations, as well as investor pressure, are leading companies—especially upstream

producers—to set more ambitious targets to cut methane emissions.

Source: CSIS-Methane Reduction Report-

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