IEA alerts ‘methane’ emissions spike in ’21

Staff Correspondent

19 January, 2021 12:00 AM printer

The methane emission from the global oil and gas industry is likely to increase this year against 10 percent drop last year because of lack of greater action, according to International Energy Agency (IEA).

The IEA has expressed its concern over the rise of methane emissions in the current year due to the lack of greater action of companies, policy makers and regulators.

The recommendations came through a latest report published on Monday.

According to the report, methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry fell by an estimated 10 percent in 2020 as producers slashed output in response to the historic shock of the Covid-19 crisis.

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) and makes a major contribution to global warming.

IEA’s 'Methane Tracker' 2021 revealed that oil and gas operations worldwide emitted more than 70 million tonnes of methane into the atmosphere last year.

In addition, IEA's latest analysis indicates that a large part of the drop in methane emissions in 2020 occurred not because companies were taking more care to avoid methane leaks from their operations, but simply because they were producing less oil and gas.

As such, there is clearly a risk that this downward trend will be reversed by an increase in production to fuel a rebound in global economic activity, the analysis reports.

In this regard, IEA Executive Director Dr Fatih Birol said that 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 historical peak.

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, he added.  

“Alongside ambitious efforts to decarbonise our economies, early action on methane emissions will be critical for avoiding the worst effects of climate change," said Dr Birol.

In contrast, reducing methane emissions is very cost-effective for oil and gas companies, says the report.

Unlike CO2, there is already a price for methane everywhere in the world – the price of natural gas.

This means the costs of improving operations or making repairs to prevent leaks can often be paid for by the value of the additional gas that is brought to market.

"We believe that industry must act, visibly and quickly,” said Dr Birol, adding, "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."

The new IEA report, "Driving Down Methane Leaks from the Oil and Gas Industry: A Regulatory Roadmap and Toolkit" offers a step-by-step guide for anyone trying develop or to update regulation on methane.