Opinion: New IEA Methane Stats Underline The Scale Of The Energy Industry’s Challenge

Opinion: New IEA Methane Stats Underline The Scale Of The Energy Industry’s Challenge - Carbon Herald
Source: Xodus

By Mike Allan, Global Excellence Hub Director – Operations Support, Xodus

Confronting the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions challenge hinges on all of us within the sector being aware of the issue at hand. This isn’t something that can simply be left to HSE teams or environment specialists – action on methane must be a consideration in every decision at every level of business. 

Figures laid out in a recently published International Energy Agency (IEA) report reinforced why it is incumbent on the whole energy sector to step up to the plate. Despite the effort made to date, analysis from the IEA found that methane emissions from the energy sector remained near a record high in 2023, with the production and use of fossil fuels resulting in close to 120 million tonnes, a small rise compared with 2022.

Encouragingly, the IEA did stress that a rollout of recently announced policies – including an EU methane mandate that impacts operators of fossil fuel assets in the bloc, as well as those wishing to sell gas to the EU – will evoke change. Combine that with fresh impetus from last year’s COP28 climate summit and there is cause for optimism. Still, the current trajectory of global methane emissions means international climate goals, including the Paris agreement to limit warming to 1.5°C, are at risk. 

With methane anthropogenic emissions increasingly under the microscope globally, a lot of questions being asked of oil and gas companies.

The sector is viewed as something of an easy win for slashing emissions as it can be done relatively swiftly, while providing energy and revenue. For context, the IEA estimates that a significant proportion (40%) of methane releases will pay for themselves. 

In the UK, the North Sea oil and gas industry has committed to cutting its emissions in half by the end of the decade, against a 2018 baseline, and action on methane is essential to achieving that. Progress has been made and UKCS upstream methane intensity is estimated to have fallen by some 40% in the last six years. But if the North Sea is to near zero out its methane emissions in an acceptable timeframe, it’s going to have to dig deep.

Relevant: Rebellion Opens New Frontier For Methane-Emissions Abatement With ACR Issuance, ACX Listing Of Carbon Credits From Plugging Orphan Oil And Gas Wells

Indeed, hitting emissions reduction targets will require a focused and targeted approach right across the wider UK energy industry, with cooperation and knowledge sharing on a huge scale. Companies need to be able to understand and map their methane inventories because, as the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. 

Our emissions & climate team understand the complexities of the landscape operators are now navigating. Working hand in hand with companies from across the oil and gas sector, Xodus specialists have been supporting clients to make methane a pillar of their wider emissions reduction strategies, simplifying the process, driving efficiencies and saving them, and the consumer, money. 

Collaboration is key to getting a grip on methane emissions and there are various initiatives designed to foster knowledge sharing and normalise monitoring.

Relevant: CO2RE Announces Four Winners From Its Methane And Ocean CO2 Removal Funding Call

A number of companies have voluntarily signed up to the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership’s (OGMP) reporting framework, a welcome sign that even without the stick of regulation, many are committed to getting a handle on their emissions. It also means operators are learning valuable lessons on emissions reduction, lessons the UK can use as a basis for future parameters. 

Meanwhile Xodus recently became the latest signatory of Aiming For Zero programme led by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s (OGCI), which is working to establish an all-in approach that treats methane emissions as seriously as the oil and gas industry already treats safety.

Many of the world’s biggest energy companies have already put their name to this pact and this commitment will go a long way to ensuring 2023 is the last year that the sector is responsible for record high methane emissions.

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