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Global methane emissions from the oil and gas sector fell by 10 percent year over year in 2020, but the industry and policy makers shouldn’t be complacent because the reduction was largely the result of the decline in oil and gas production due to the pandemic shock, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a new report on Monday.
Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), although it stays for much shorter periods of time in the atmosphere—around 12 years, compared with centuries for CO2. Methane, however, absorbs much more energy while it is in the atmosphere, the IEA said.
According to the agency, oil production accounts for around 40 percent of methane emissions in the sector today, while leaks across the natural gas value chain represent the remaining 60 percent.
Most of last year’s decline in methane emissions in the oil and gas sector was due to the lower oil and gas production, especially in countries where production has a high emissions intensity, notably Libya and Venezuela. Reduced U.S. shale drilling activity in response to the low oil prices in 2020 also contributed to reduced methane emissions, as did efforts to develop new gas infrastructure and new methane regulations in a number of countries, the agency said.
In 2020, the biggest methane emitter from oil and gas was Russia, followed by the United States, while Libya, Venezuela, and Turkmenistan had the highest methane intensity measured in emissions per kiloton of oil equivalent.
Without more actions from policy makers and oil and gas operators, the methane emissions could rebound this year as production rises and economies recover, the IEA warns in its report.
“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,” IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com
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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews.