Global methane emissions from fossil fuel industry rise to near record in 2022, prompting challenge International Energy Agency for oil and gas companies to use “windfall” profits to clean up leaks of the potent global-warming gas.
The latest IEA report estimates that industry was responsible for 135 million tons of methane released into the atmosphere last year, just slightly below the record high in 2019.
Methane is the main component gas and accounts for about 30 percent of the rise in global temperature since the Industrial Revolution, with the energy industry accounting for about a third of human-caused methane, second only to agriculture.
Climate change experts see reducing methane emissions as one of the cheapest and fastest opportunities to address global warming because it is more effective than carbon dioxide but has a shorter life span.
Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, called on policymakers to redouble pressure on the energy industry to eliminate methane pollution, particularly leakage and distribution.
“From our perspective, there is no excuse for the oil and gas industry not to move quickly. And no excuse for governments not to step in and make it happen,” he said.
Oil and gas companies announced a buffer year in 2022, after Russia’s war in Ukraine triggered an energy crisis that forced Europe to switch to fossil fuels.
Birol said oil and gas industry revenues jumped to about $4 trillion last year, compared with about $1.4 to $1.5 trillion in previous years. “I make the IEA’s comment very clear: we would like to see a significant portion of that $4 billion go to investments in the clean energy transition, including addressing methane emissions.”
By investing 3 percent of oil and gas companies’ “windfall” in 2022 into existing technologies such as leak detection and repair, methane emissions from the sector could be reduced by 75 percent, he said.
“Tackling methane is one of the most important, if not the most important thing that can be done to combat short-term global warming.”
The report calculated that, based on average gas prices from 2017-21, about 40 percent of methane leakage could be stopped at zero net cost because the price for avoiding emissions was less than the market value of the captured gas.
The IEA said about 75 percent of the methane wasted each year in oil and gas operations could be “captured and brought to market using proven policies and technologies” – a volume larger than the EU’s natural gas imports from Russia before the war in Ukraine. .
More than 150 countries have endorsed the pledge shear methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, including the US and the United Arab Emirates. However, China and Russia, among the biggest emitters, are not signatories to the agreement reached at the UN COP26 climate summit.
Oil and gas operations around the world released the same amount of methane each day as last September’s Nord Stream explosion, citing a damaged pipeline bringing gas from Russia to Europe, the IEA said.
Despite the advent of satellite monitoring of methane eruptions, the report also found that emissions from very large satellite-detected leaks fell by nearly 10 percent in 2022 compared to 2021.
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