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Can the Energy Sector Contribute to Slowing Down Global Warming?

08 Jun

Greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are on a nonstop rise from around 715 parts per billion (ppb) during pre-industrial times to over 1800 ppb in November 2020 [1], and emissions are predicted to increase by nearly 20% to over 8500 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent (MMTCO2E) by 2030 [2]. Despite the relatively low concentrations compared to CO2, methane is far more potent as a GHG, as its global warming potential is 25 times that of CO2 over a 100-year period [3]. However, methane has a relatively short atmospheric lifetime of 12 years [3] compared to carbon dioxide, which could last anywhere between 300-1000 years in the atmosphere [4]. Curbing emissions now could immediately help avoid potential climactic tipping points and reduce environmental impacts.

While it is important to tackle all anthropogenic sources of methane, there should be added focus on the oil and gas sector. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), fossil fuel operations generated nearly one-third of all methane emissions from human activity [5]. Roughly 40% of methane emissions are from oil production, while 60% of emissions are from leaks across the natural gas value chain [5].

Methane emissions occur along the entire energy sector supply chain [6]:

  • Pre-production phase: well completion and hydraulic fracturing
  • Extraction phase: fugitive emissions, venting, and workovers
  • Gathering and processing phases: venting and leaks
  • Transmission and storage phases: venting and leaks from compressors, pipework, and storage sites
  • Distribution phase: venting and leaks from pipework, regulating stations and customer meters
  • Use phase: incomplete combustion

Due to the nature of oil and gas operations, emissions can be narrowed down to specific source points, and it is possible to control and mitigate these emissions more effectively compared to other sectors such as agriculture.

To achieve the Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario, methane emissions from fossil fuel operations must fall by around 75% between 2020 and 2030 [5]. Analyses considering natural gas processing from 2017-2021 have shown that it is possible to achieve this reduction with technology that is currently available, and that around 45% of methane emissions can be avoided at no net cost [5]. Methane has commercial value and any methane that is captured can be monetised directly, thus the cost of abatement is less than the market value of the additional gas that could be captured. Methane emission reductions could generate economic savings or at least be carried out at a low cost.


We take a holistic approach to tackle the issue of methane emissions.

To know more about the services we offer, and how we can help you achieve your sustainability goals, please contact us on info@aiegroup.org


[1]         https://research.noaa.gov/article/ArtMID/587/ArticleID/2742/Despite-pandemic-shutdowns-carbon-dioxide-and-methane-surged-in-2020

[2]         https://www.globalmethane.org/about/methane.aspx

[3]         https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases

[4]         https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2915/the-atmosphere-getting-a-handle-on-carbon-dioxide/#:~:text=Carbon%20dioxide%20is%20a%20different,timescale%20of%20many%20human%20lives.

[5]         https://www.iea.org/reports/methane-emissions-from-oil-and-gas

[6]         https://caneurope.org/methane-emissions-energy-sector-effective-action-tackle-invisible-menace/

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