Recent satellite images of Russian gas infrastructure have pushed back methane emissions in headlines. While more data is needed to get a full picture of methane emissions from imported gas, it highlights why the upcoming EU legislation is likely to impact markets. all around the world.
In 2020, European startup Kayrros used satellite imagery to detect 13 methane emission events along the Yamal-Europe gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany. An additional 33 emission events were detected on the smaller Urengoy – Pomary – Uzhgorod pipeline, bringing Russian gas to pumping stations in Ukraine and facilities near the borders of Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. It’s an illustration of a long-known climate advocate problem: Europe simply doesn’t know enough about the methane associated with our energy consumption.
The EU is the world’s largest natural gas importer and one of the top oil importers. When you add the reported methane emissions associated with Europe’s oil and gas consumption, it’s the continent’s third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions – and that’s just what we know.
In Europe and neighboring countries, there is a real problem around providing detailed data on methane emissions. It is difficult to say with certainty how much of an impact the EU’s methane emissions are. We know they’re important, and nearly every scientific study done around the world shows more emissions than reported.
In 2018, a research team led by the Environmental Protection Fund used satellites, aircraft, and ground measurements to find emissions rates 60% higher than officially reported greenhouse gas inventories for the oil and gas industry in the United States. A similar study This year’s announcement shows emissions rates 10 times higher than official inventories of onshore oil and gas production facilities in Mexico.
We expect a similar trend both within the EU and in the supplier countries of the EU.
Even if emissions detected by the Kayrros satellite – as the operators claim – were reported as part of the maintenance plan, the amount of methane emissions from oil and gas consumed in the EU remains. is a big concern. The methane gas is 80 times more heat-trapping than CO22, and even reported levels have risen faster than predicted by the Paris Climate Agreement, pushing us closer to uncontrolled climate consequences.
If this trend continues, it could prove unable to meet the agreement’s goals – even with the CO2 minimize.
Research from Kayrros is notable for highlighting the prevalence of intentional methane release, as opposed to methane leaking from worn flanges or other older equipment. This went up in a year when Russian gas demand fell 15%. As financial pressures increase on oil and gas companies, and as gas prices drop, the cost-cutting trend associated with regular monitoring and maintenance increases. The EU announcement late last year that it would also step up a significant reduction in methane emissions from the oil and gas sector is very welcome news, offering the opportunity to cut methane both domestically and globally. via EU purchasing power.
European Commission methane strategy provides a good starting point but currently lacks methane emissions from imported sources, most notably Russia, Norway, Algeria and Qatar. There is an opportunity to become more assertive and strengthen its role as a governing body on a global scale. The past ten years have seen Brussels regulations continually apply to the global tech industry, so why not extend its approach to climate policy?
Of course, some of the problems with methane are in water. The methane strategy needs to be more robust in detecting and fixing leaks – pushing for legislative commitments that cover the entire oil and gas system regularly, enough to make a real difference. Monitoring, reporting and verification are another cornerstone of an effective methane removal strategy. The Committee should ensure that this is based on a comprehensive equipment survey, detailed, specific reports and application of the most up-to-date emissions factors. And all emissions data must be made available to the public.
Ultimately, as Kayrros’s research has shown, deflating and flare-ups require special attention.
The Commission announced it could propose legislative action to ban conventional ventilation and flare-ups by 2025 and set effective standards for emergency flare-ups. This should not be one ability it is a commitment to ban these highly polluting and wasteful activities over the next year. It should also include requirements for the specific replacement of equipment that is purposefully designed to release air.
The strong methane law in the EU is very important. Properly implemented these policies could reduce more than five million tons of methane annually, reducing warming in the short term equivalent to replacing about 120 coal-fired power plants with carbon-free production.
On a global scale, methane mitigation is most likely the strategy with the greatest potential for minimizing warming in the next 20 years. The more data we get, the clearer it becomes.
And the EU is in a difficult geopolitical position to turn around.