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    Methane Partnership Goes for Data


With many big and some smaller oil and gas producers signing up to their methane partnership, the pressing task now is to agree on a measurement and reporting system.

by: William Powell

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Methane Partnership Goes for Data

The established Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) has reaffirmed its commitment to measuring, monitoring, reporting and cutting methane leaks, in the wake of the European Union's methane strategy published in October.

OGMP 2.0 is the next step in the United Nations Environmental Programme to reduce the amount of gas that is flared, vented or escapes through various points in the value chain, adding to global warming at a far faster rate than the equivalent volume of CO2.

Accounting for almost a third of global oil and gas production, the 62 member companies are determined to not only lower their own methane intensity to 0.2% by 2025 but also to lower their customers' intensity too. Several companies restated their positive views on the need to adhere to more methodical standards November 23, including German Wintershall Dea and French Total (see below).

Midstream companies that move the gas around Europe are also keen to transport gas with a smaller carbon footprint as their future social acceptance depends on it. There is no alternative, affordable seasonal energy storage system that does not use natural gas or biogas. Electrons are not suitable for many other decarbonised solutions such as heavy road or marine transport, as a number of associations demonstrated in a joint research paper November 23.

Pipeline companies such as Enagas in Spain, Italgas and Cadent in the UK are already experimenting with blending hydrogen with methane in the low-pressure pipelines. Italgas spokesman Paolo Gallo told the webinar that reduction in leaks was essential to EU climate objectives.

Speaking at a webinar November 23, EU energy commissioner Kadri Simson reminded listeners that while energy accounts for only 19% of the bloc's methane leaks, it was the quickest and easiest sector to cut emissions from. Methane has value to that sector, unlike the bigger sources of leaks: waste (about 30%) and agriculture (the rest). She said that the regulatory framework would be updated once there was reliable data, perhaps in a year's time. A methane observatory is part of the EU's plans, she said.

And as the world's largest energy importer, she said, the EU could not reduce the emissions alone. Exporters had to be involved as well. But measurements were the first priority, she said: until there was an agreed methodology, there would be no way of monitoring and regulating the leaks.

UK major BP is already experimenting with leak measurements, flying drones over installations in the North Sea off the Scottish coast, but it is looking at permanent installations too, said the company's upstream and operations head Gordon Birrell. Energy companies had the responsibility to ensure that demand was met, globally; but this vital job has to be done more cleanly, he said. And such companies had the necessary engineering, project management and other skills needed not only to address the world's economic recovery but the energy transition too.

Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement earlier November 23 that the company had been reducing its intensity for some time, with a 45% cut in emissions since 2010. But in order to progress further on monitoring, Total was using "cutting-edge R&D programmes to support the development of future detection and measurement technologies."

Total’s methane emissions stood at 68,000 metric tons in 2019, representing an emission intensity of around 0.2% of the commercial gas produced on operated upstream oil and gas facilities. Its objective is to reduce that intensity below 0.2%, and notably to reduce it further for the gas assets to below 0.1% of the commercial gas produced.

In some countries flaring is routine: in Russia and the US, associated gas cannot be profitably marketed owing to the cost of transport, for example. But gas-to-power projects are being developed in countries such as Iraq and Nigeria, where much gas is flared each year. The World Bank publishes annual reports on flaring.