Report: 2022 Global Methane Emissions Rose

THURSDAY, APRIL 6, 2023


A recent report from the International Energy Agency found that the global energy sector produced nearly 135 million tons of methane emissions in 2022, an increase from the year prior. The energy sector is reportedly responsible for almost 40% of total human-made methane emissions, second to the agriculture sector.

However, the IEA also notes that the oil and gas sector could reduce its emissions by over 75% by implementing methods such as leak detection and repair programs.

Report Findings

Methane, the agency reports, is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. It dissipates faster than carbon dioxide but is a much more powerful greenhouse gas during its short lifespan. 

Coal, oil and natural gas operations were reportedly responsible for around 40 metric tons (Mt) of emissions last year, with nearly 5 Mt from leaks in end-use equipment. Around 10 Mt of emissions comes from the incomplete combustion of bioenergy, largely from the traditional use of biomass. 

While it is only a slight increase year-over-year, the IEA says that this highlights a “lack of industry action on an issue that is often very cheap to address.” According to the report, less than 3% of the income accrued by oil and gas companies worldwide last year would be required to make the $100 billion investment in technologies needed to achieve a 75% reduction.

“Our new Global Methane Tracker shows that some progress is being made but that emissions are still far too high and not falling fast enough—especially as methane cuts are among the cheapest options to limit near-term global warming. There is just no excuse,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol.

“The Nord Stream pipeline explosion last year released a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere. But normal oil and gas operations around the world release the same amount of methane as the Nord Stream explosion every single day.”

The agency says that technology such as leak detection, as well as repair programs for upgrading leaky equipment, could be implemented in the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions. In the coal sector, more than half of methane emissions could reportedly be cut by making the most of coal mine methane utilization, or by flaring or oxidation technologies when energy recovery is not viable.

Additionally, the agency reports that satellites are providing clearer pictures of methane emissions and greatly increasing the world’s knowledge of emission sources. In 2022 alone, more than 500 super-emitting events were detected by satellites from oil and gas operations, and a further 100 were seen at coal mines.

“The untamed release of methane in fossil fuel production is a problem that sometimes goes under the radar in public debate,” Dr Birol said. “Unfortunately, it’s not a new issue and emissions remain stubbornly high.

“Many companies saw hefty profits last year following a turbulent period for international oil and gas markets amid the global energy crisis. Fossil fuel producers need to step up and policy makers need to step in—and both must do so quickly.”

Recent US Efforts

Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced almost $47 million in funding for 22 research projects to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. These projects are anticipated to advance the development of new and innovative measurement, monitoring and mitigation technologies to help detect, quantify and reduce these emissions.

According to the DOE, methane emissions are the second largest contributor to climate change, just behind carbon dioxide. The projects also support President Joe Biden’s U.S. Methane Emissions Reduction Program, as well as the climate goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

“Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, making methane reduction a critical part of our nation’s long-term climate solution,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

“The projects announced today will help DOE accelerate the deployment of technology that detects and reduces methane emissions across the oil and gas sector—our largest source of industrial methane—leading to long-lasting health and environmental benefits for communities across the country.”   

The DOE’s methane mitigation program addresses critical environmental issues associated with the production, transmission, and storage of domestic oil and natural gas. Projects will reportedly focus on technical challenges of quantifying and mitigating methane emissions along the U.S. oil and natural gas supply chain, including the development and demonstration of an efficient integrated methane monitoring platform to enable early detection of methane emissions. 

The selected projects will advance technologies under five areas: 

  • Mitigating Methane Emissions from Upstream/Midstream Sources;
  • Surface-based Methane Monitoring and Measurement;
  • Basin-Specific Needs to Mitigate Methane Emissions;
  • Integrated Methane Monitoring Platform Design; and
  • Investigating Emissions from Storage Tanks.  

The department’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) will reportedly manage the selected projects. A full list of the selected projects can be found here

   

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