Data 'revolution' could accelerate methane abatement

  • Market: Coal, Crude oil, Emissions, Natural gas
  • 21/03/24

Measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) of methane emissions are the key building blocks to facilitate targeted emissions reductions in the coming years, participants at the UN-organised Global Methane Forum in Geneva heard this week.

Methane has contributed to 30pc of the rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the industrial revolution, according to the IEA. It is a far more potent greenhouse gas (GHG) than CO2.

The agency estimates that 40pc of man-made methane emissions have come from the energy sector, the second largest contributor after agriculture.

But difficulties in detecting them, as they vary between installations and cannot be calculated on the basis of fuel consumption as for CO2 emissions, have hindered progress so far.

Traditional inventories have been activity-based — taking estimated emissions factors of individual pieces of equipment and multiplying them by the numbers installed. But they are often significantly underestimated, according to researcher Matthew Johnson of Canada's Energy and Emissions Research Laboratory. "We all know emissions factors are wrong, but improving them is expensive and time-consuming," Jonathan Banks of environmental NGO the Clean Air Task Force said. And some firms may not even accurately inventory their equipment, leading to a second source of inaccuracy.

But greater attention given to the warming induced by methane has been accompanied by advances in monitoring technology. Satellite monitoring tools allow for external measurement and verification of methane emissions. And the arrival of new satellites in the coming years will mean more extensive top-down measurements, in what several speakers hailed as a "revolution".

These include MethaneSat, a detecting satellite funded by American NGO the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the New Zealand Space Agency and launched earlier this month.

The satellite will measure emissions across 48 hydrocarbon production basins. Existing methane-detection satellites typically either measure emissions from point sources or over very large areas. MethaneSat's capabilities will fall between these two extremes, according to Flavia Sollazzo, senior director at the EDF, allowing for the creation of much more comprehensive emissions inventories from the oil and gas sector, starting from the end of this year or beginning of 2025.

Measures to coordinate sharing and verifying the collected data are also taking shape. A working group formed of 20 jurisdictions including major producers and consumers such as the US and the EU is aiming to set a framework for international reporting and verification of methane emissions by mid-2025.

But some speakers emphasised that firms and countries can act to curb emissions even without having a complete picture. Some interventions can be as simple as changing working practices to ensure valves remain closed.

UNFCCC chair of Article 6.4 supervisory body Olga Gassan-Zade pointed out that abatement may be difficult for NOCs with more limited financial and technical capacity in countries such as Libya, Iraq and Angola. And the incentive to carry out projects could be reduced by the internal price of gas set by governments, which may make interventions appear uneconomic.

There are few "big wins" allowing for large cost savings on the back of reduced methane emissions, Gassan-Zade said, and negative-cost abatement is "often a myth", contrary to the claims of the IEA.

And financial institutions retreating from oil and gas projects could complicate efforts to fund methane abatement projects in the sector, some delegates said.

IEA chief economist Tim Gould said that 2024 could be a "breakthrough" year for methane emissions reductions. But there is as yet no hard evidence that overall methane emissions from the energy sector are falling, he said.


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Iraq to keep 3.3mn b/d crude export cap until year end

Iraq to keep 3.3mn b/d crude export cap until year end

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24/04/24

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24/04/24

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