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Charles Kennedy

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Permian Methane Flares Could Be Linked to Texas Heatwave

  • Data from a space telescope revealed 22 significant methane plumes in June.
  • Climate nonprofit Carbon Mapper suggests that there's a link between the methane releases and the local temperatures.
  • Transition advocates lament the fact that nowhere near enough is being spent on methane emissions mitigation, especially compared with what is being poured into carbon dioxide emission reduction.

Data from a telescope orbiting the Earth with the International Space Station has revealed 22 significant methane flares in the Permian in June, when Texas saw hotter than normal temperatures for that time of the year.

Per a Bloomberg report, the data, studied by a climate nonprofit dubbed Carbon Mapper, suggests a link between the methane releases and the local temperatures.

“You can look down and see what’s really on the ground at the site of a methane plume,” Robert O. Green, the principal investigator for the EMIT telescope program at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Bloomberg. “They are like invisible fires that we can’t see, and we need a technology that lets us see them.”

Thanks to the EMIT telescope, they did see the “invisible fires” and when Carbon Mappers studied the data, it concluded that the methane was being released at a rate of over 79 tons per hour. Bloomberg says this is equal to the amount of exhaust fumes released by 2.8 million idling cars.

On the other hand, earlier this month, Kayrros data showed a significant release of methane from a natural gas well in Kazakhstan. This time it was satellite data that revealed the “invisible fires” and helped the geoanalytics firm detect them.

Later, Bloomberg reports, the company operating the well confirmed the release, which Kayrros put at between 35 and 107 tons per hour. And it has been going on since August.  Related: Nigerian Military Destroys 8 Illegal Refining Sites In Niger Delta

There has been no news about abnormal temperatures in Kazakhstan in the period and the past two months have seen temperatures fairly normal for this time of the year.

In the U.S., one of the companies implicated in releasing substantial amounts of methane, pipeline operator Targa Resources, said Carbon Mapper regularly exaggerated data “regularly and significantly”.

Methane has been drawing increasing attention from energy transition advocates and governments, including in the United States, where this has translated into stricter flaring rules.

Yet transition advocates lament the fact that nowhere near enough is being spent on methane emissions mitigation, especially compared with what is being poured into carbon dioxide emission reduction.

Globally, as much as $119 billion is needed each year in the agriculture, energy, and waste sectors to keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, per climate finance NGO Climate Policy Initiative, whose conclusion was cited in a recent report by another climate NGO—the Clean Air Task Force.

However, the current levels of spending on cutting methane emissions are just 10% of this sum, CATF authors noted in their report. The gap in financing is a massive $107 billion each year.

“While there is a role for regulation to spur methane investments, for many developing countries, international financial support is needed to overcome barriers to private sector investment,” the authors wrote.

Methane is the second most-common greenhouse gas produced by human activity and is a lot more potent in its greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide. On the flip side, methane has a much shorter life in the atmosphere than CO2.

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The oil and gas industry has been a natural target for methane opponents because it produces the gas, which makes up most of what we know as natural gas. What is of particular concern has been gas flaring, even though it is unburned gas that has the greater greenhouse effect. Flaring, however, produces its own emissions and there has been an international push to reduce the practice.

Last year, Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States were the biggest flarers in the world, followed by Russia, Iraq, Iran, Algeria, Venezuela, and Libya.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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