Methane Emissions Down 10% in 2020 on Output Cuts: IEA (Update)
(Adds comment from producers in final para)
Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry dropped by 10% in 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a report on January 18. But rather than progress in leak prevention, the decline largely reflects cuts in output in response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Paris-based agency said.
The IEA estimates that global oil and gas operations released more than 70mn metric tons of methane into the atmosphere last year. Methane is a far greater contributor to global warming than CO2. The gains made in 2020 are set to be lost as production rises and economic activity recovers from the Covid-19 slump, the agency said.
"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 historic peak," IEA director Fatih Birol said. "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."
Reducing these emissions is very cost-effective, IEA said, as investing in leak prevention is rewarded with increased revenues from the gas that is saved.
The IEA has released a 'how-to' guide to help governments and regulators reduce methane releases from oil and gas activity. The report, named Driving Down Methane Leaks from Oil and Gas Industry: A Regulatory Roadmap and Toolkit, draws from analysis of successful measures undertaken in over 50 countries.
"We believe that industry must act, visibly and quickly," Birol said. "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."
Birol called on countries to make commitments on methane reductions ahead of the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for November in Glasgow, the UK. "This is also the moment for companies to put all their weight behind this effort," he said, noting that there was growing consumer concern about emissions levels. "A gas producer without a credible story on methane abatement is also one that is taking commercial risks."
The Oil & Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) said it "fully supports the IEA’s efforts to increase data transparency and welcomes the regulatory roadmap, both of which are critical for mitigating methane emissions. OGCI’s member companies have made it a top priority to reduce methane emissions to near zero, and through their membership in OGCI support the implementation of regulations specifically tackling methane emissions reduction.”