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Methane emissions from energy production are counted low

According to a report this morning from the International Energy Agency, governments around the world are massively calculating the amount of methane that energy production releases into the environment.

The agency’s annual Global Methane Monitor says emissions from the energy sector are about 70 percent larger than those officially reported by national governments. The difference underscores the need for better oversight and tougher efforts to stem emissions, the IEA said.

IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said: “An important part of those efforts is transparency about the size and location of emissions, which is why there is a huge lack of reporting due to the Gas Monitor. Our global methane disclosure is very alarming.”

Overall, the IEA report shows that energy-methane emissions rose by nearly 5% last year as the economy began to slow to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. Methane emissions fall by about 10% in 2020 as the pandemic unfolds, along with efforts to reduce it (EnergywireJanuary 19, 2021).

The United States is listed as the third largest emitter of methane, releasing 17 million tons last year, accounting for nearly 13% of total global gas. The United States ranks second in emissions in 2020. But this year, the IEA took coal into account, putting China in first place, followed by Russia.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, emissions from oil and natural gas have fallen by a little more than 2%. That suggests some efforts to limit emissions may be succeeding, the IEA said.

The agency also noted that with gas costs soaring amid tight supplies, companies that let leaks happen are wasting an increasingly valuable product. The report said that the gas leak in 2021, if captured and sold, would provide 180 billion cubic meters of gas, enough to supply Europe’s electricity sector.

“This could be comfortable enough to ease today’s price pressures,” the report said.

Satellites are playing an increasingly important role in determining how much gas is actually being emitted around the world.

The report combines satellite data on major leaks in 15 countries. That includes “significant emissions” from the Permian basin of Texas and from Turkmenistan. The Central Asian nation was responsible for a third of the very large emissions events detected by satellites last year, the report itself said.

Relatively few major leaks have been detected among the major onshore producers in the Middle East, the report said.

But they say satellite monitoring has important blind spots, such as the equatorial regions, offshore areas and Russia’s main oil and gas-producing regions.

Methane is thought to be responsible for about 30% of the increase in global temperature since the Industrial Revolution. The IEA says the oil and gas sector accounts for 40% of methane emissions worldwide and last year emitted about 80 million tonnes of the greenhouse gas. Methane is also released in natural processes and in agricultural activities.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2022. E&E News provides essential news for energy and environmental professionals.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/methane-emissions-from-energy-production-are-massively-undercounted/ Methane emissions from energy production are counted low

Chris Barrese

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