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IEA: cut methane emissions from oil and gas is a must

The International Energy Agency (IEA) recently released its ‘how-to’ guide, Driving Down Methane Leaks from the Oil and Gas Industry: A Regulatory Roadmap and Toolkit for policymakers to tackle the issue of methane emissions, as in 2020 the drop originated mainly from lower production rather than prevention of leaks.

The report advice draws on analysis of how countries, States or provinces around the world have tackled methane emissions from a regulatory perspective.

Last year methane emissions fell by 10 per cent in the oil and gas industry, as producers slashed output in response to the historic shock of the COVID-19 crisis, on the other hand, emissions could rebound strongly without greater action by companies, policymakers and regulators.

If we speak about greenhouse gases (GHG), CO2 is the first one which comes to our mind, but methane is much more potent and results in a major contribution to global warming. According to the IEA’s Methane Tracker, oil and gas operations worldwide emitted more than 70 million tonnes of methane last year. This is almost the same as the total energy-related CO2 emissions from the entire European Union.

“The immediate task now for the oil and gas industry is to make sure that there is no resurgence in methane emissions, even as the world economy recovers and that 2019 becomes their historical peak,” said Dr Fatih Birol, Executive Director of IEA. “There is no good reason to allow these harmful leaks to continue and there is every reason for responsible operators to ensure that they are addressed. Alongside ambitious efforts to decarbonise our economies, early action on methane emissions will be critical for avoiding the worst effects of climate change. There has never been a greater sense of urgency about this issue than there is today. To help accelerate these efforts, the IEA is today releasing a how-to guide that governments and regulators can use to bring down methane emissions from oil and gas operations.”

Nevertheless, the guide highlights that reducing methane emissions is very cost-effective for oil and gas companies, because for methane emissions there is already a price, everywhere in the world: the price of natural gas. Which means that the costs of developing operations and preventing leaks can often be paid for by the value of the additional gas that is brought to market.

“But there is also a strong role for government policies: to incentivise early action by companies, push for transparency and improvements in performance and support innovation in getting results,” added Dr Birol.

To cut methane emissions from oil and gas is a must, but not just because it is environmental or reputational, but consumers also starting to look carefully at the emissions profile of different sources of gas when making decisions on what to buy.

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