COP28: Urgent Calls for Action on Methane Emissions in Oil and Gas Industry

By Editor


In a groundbreaking report released by Wood Mackenzie ahead of COP28, the global spotlight is firmly fixed on the critical issue of methane emissions within the oil and gas sector. Highlighting the pervasive impact of methane on climate change, the report emphasizes the industry’s pivotal role, attributing up to a quarter of human-caused methane emissions to oil and gas operations.

The report, titled “Mission Invisible: Tackling the Oil and Gas Industry’s Methane Challenge,” underscores the urgency for robust commitments and stringent measures to curtail emissions. According to experts, methane, primarily released through flaring, venting, and unintended leaks, contributes significantly to the global temperature rise, accounting for nearly a third of induced temperature escalation since the industrial era’s inception.

Adam Pollard, Principal Analyst for Upstream Emissions at Wood Mackenzie, stressed the industry’s struggle, stating, “The challenge lies in emissions released into the atmosphere, be it intentional or unintentional, with the majority of methane produced globally marketed as natural gas.”

Wood Mackenzie’s report identifies two major categories of methane emissions: “snowballers” and “super-emitters.” Elena Belletti, Global Head of Carbon Research at Wood Mackenzie, highlighted the cumulative impact of seemingly minor “snowballer” emissions, often untraceable by current satellite technology. Belletti noted, “These emissions collectively contribute substantially to the estimated 370 million tonnes per annum of anthropogenic methane, possibly still an underestimated figure.”
Methane reduction in oil and gas companiesThe report further outlines the complexity of tracking methane emissions, citing technological limitations in detecting smaller leaks. Despite these challenges, Belletti remains optimistic about existing technologies that can address emissions at various scales. She emphasized the imminent focus on methane reduction commitments, particularly at COP28.

Addressing Challenges and Driving Change

Wood Mackenzie’s Emissions Benchmarking Tool reveals that while individual field-level methane losses are relatively small, their cumulative impact presents a significant challenge. Tracking emissions from larger fields spread across multiple facilities poses a quantification obstacle.

Nevertheless, the industry has witnessed initiatives like the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s “Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions,” showcasing a commitment by major companies to achieve near-zero methane emissions by 2030. These efforts have already led to a remarkable 45 percent reduction in upstream methane intensity over the past five years.

Pollard highlighted the financial incentives for companies to reduce methane emissions, citing increased gas sales and reduced penalties for venting and flaring. He noted the evolving landscape, foreseeing methane reduction becoming a service-driven initiative. He referenced recent methodologies to generate offsets from plugging methane leaks, a trend expected to gain traction with stricter regulations, consequently elevating the value of such offsets.

The Road Ahead

As COP28 approaches, the imperative for collective action to address methane emissions in the oil and gas industry looms large. With technology limitations and diverse emission sources, stakeholders, including governments and companies, face a pressing challenge to adopt stringent measures and innovative solutions to curb methane emissions, setting the stage for a pivotal moment in combating climate change.

The spotlight on methane reduction commitments at COP28 underscores the industry’s need for sustainable and actionable strategies to mitigate methane emissions, shaping a more environmentally conscious future.

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