UN raises concern over methane release in oil, gas operations

Oil and gas plant

The United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP), yesterday, raised concern on the need to cut down the release of methane emissions, especially in the oil and gas sector.

According to a report released ahead of the UN Climate Summit in September, the petroleum industry is one of the largest man-made emission sources of methane, alongside agriculture, and waste. 

The report noted that the oil and gas sector produces about one-quarter of global anthropogenic methane emissions, and calls for focus on cutting carbon dioxide emissions, mainly responsible for climate change.

       
Methane is responsible for at least a quarter of global warming and is over 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a warming gas over a twenty-year timeframe, UNEP said.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, accelerated reductions in methane emissions must come by 2030, to have any chance of meeting the 1.5°C global temperature target – or even the 2°C target.

Methane also helps to form ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant that is responsible for approximately one million deaths, and the loss of up to 110 million tonnes of crops each year, meaning that cutting methane emissions can bring a double benefit.
       
With countries like Nigeria leading in 3.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is being flared globally, UN quoting a 2012 figure, noted that the wasted gas translated into roughly $30 billion of lost revenue, and about three per cent of global natural gas production.

Head of UNEP Energy and Climate Branch, Mark Radka, said: “The oil and gas sector, which is increasingly recognising the importance to act on climate change, can make a big difference by virtually eliminating methane emissions.  

While the International Energy Agency estimated that the industry could reduce its worldwide emissions by 75 per cent – with up to two-thirds of those reductions at zero net cost, UNEP noted that the development would benefit the industry too.

According to the report, there are already low-cost, technically feasible solutions to reduce methane emissions in oil and gas operations, including recovery and use of escaping gas, and reducing leaks from long-distance pipelines.

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