Tackling methane emissions

A significant and rapid reduction in methane emissions is critical to achieve the aims of the Paris Agreement and it’s been a top priority for OGCI since the group was founded in 2014.

Why it’s important

Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, especially in the first decades after its release into the atmosphere.

But it’s much shorter lived, so it stays in the atmosphere for much less time than carbon dioxide. This means there’s an opportunity to deliver a significant near-term reduction in the pace of global warming by urgently reducing methane emissions now.

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global Methane Tracker 2023, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere from all human activities is already more than double pre-industrial levels. It now accounts for around 30% of the global warming the world is currently experiencing.

The energy sector, including oil, natural gas, coal and bioenergy, accounts for nearly 40% of methane emissions from human activity. Other sources of emissions include agriculture and landfills.

Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry total around 2.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, according to the IEA’s latest estimates. This is nearly half of the industry’s Scope 1 and 2 emissions of 5.1 Gt carbon dioxide equivalent.

Thanks to a scale up of technologies that find and stop leaks over the past decade and by avoiding non-emergency flaring and venting, methane emissions in the oil and gas industry can now be tackled in many locations at relatively low or minimal cost.

Measuring methane emissions from oil and gas

Over the past decade, there’s been a big push to improve the measurement of methane emissions in the oil and gas sector through monitoring, reporting and verification.

This has been achieved through support of the science behind the measurements, research and development of the technologies required and the establishment of enabling policies. 

Previously, methane emissions were commonly measured using standard emission factors based on aggregating available global data and data from specific basins.

This method didn’t always reflect what was happening at a particular site or asset and didn’t necessarily pick up the main sources of methane emissions in the oil and gas industry such as leaks, venting and flaring. This resulted in wide disparities in methane emissions estimates.

In 2014, the United Nations Environment Programme set up a system for the oil and gas industry known as the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership. In 2020, UNEP increased the scope and ambition of the programme, now known as OGMP 2.0.

It focuses on measuring and improving the accuracy and transparency of methane emissions reporting to enable the prioritization of methane mitigation actions in the sector.

Other leadership programmes seeking to improve measurement, monitoring, reporting and verification of methane emissions, include GTI Energy’s Veritas program, MiQ, Project Canary and The Environmental Partnership. 

Deploying new technologies

New technologies, including monitoring with satellites, drones and sensors, make it easier to detect and better quantify methane emissions. These technologies allow the oil and gas industry to address methane emissions in a more meaningful way.

An OGCI pilot programme concluded in 2022 successfully demonstrated the use of satellite technology to detect and monitor methane emissions at specific sites in Iraq. The program – known as the Satellite Monitoring Campaign – has now been extended to more countries.

Last year, the UN launched its Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) to allow UNEP to corroborate emissions reported by companies and characterize changes over time.

Some companies are also running more frequent Leak Detection and Repair campaigns to reduce fugitive emissions, improving flare efficiency, and introducing artificial intelligence to avoid emergency venting of methane.

OGCI and methane

Reducing methane emissions has been a top priority for OGCI since the group was set up in 2014 and OGCI supports the implementation of regulations tackling methane emissions reduction of new and existing sources.

OGCI’s member companies have collectively reduced their own upstream methane emissions, achieving a reduction in their methane intensity in 2021 – four years early while continuing to reduce flaring.

Since 2017, these actions have reduced absolute upstream methane emissions by 50% and cut flaring by a 45%.

OGCI is also engaging with non-members throughout the industry to support further methane emissions reductions.

Last year, OGCI launched the Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions Initiative to encourage the entire oil and gas industry to eliminate its methane footprint by 2030.

Support for the initiative since its launch has grown quickly and now numbers around 100 companies, including private and state-run energy companies, service firms and consultancies.

To improve identification of methane emissions sources, better understand their frequency and persistence, OGCI is working with the Methane Guiding Principles and others to establish common industry practices to deploy technologies effectively in specific settings both onshore and offshore.

OGCI has supported Methane Science Studies, overseen by the government-led Climate and Clean Air Coalition, to increase scientific knowledge and understanding of methane emissions from different types of sites across the global oil and gas industry.

Since 2020, OGCI has supported the World Bank’s Global Gas Flaring Explorer platform to help deliver improved transparency in flaring data from satellites.

And OGCI members support reducing and seeking to eliminate routine flaring at company operations by 2030.

OGCI activities

Tackling methane emissions

Join the Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions Initiative to support net zero.

Methane Emissions

Explore latest resources

March 25, 2024

Results from the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative’s latest Satellite Monitoring Campaign (SMC) show that a systematic effort to raise awareness, deploy new technologies and engagement can support local operators mitigate methane emissions at scale. OGCI’s 2022-2023 campaign over Algeria, Kazakhstan and Egypt has already helped local operators eliminate methane emissions, according to a new report.

December 2, 2023

The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers, Methane Guiding Principles, OGCI and Environmental Defense Fund announced their intention to build a framework to share expertise to help companies reduce methane emissions and flaring in line with the Oil & Gas Decarbonization Charter ambitions.

October 7, 2023

The three organizations collaborated on the project as eliminating methane emissions from the upstream oil and gas industry represents one of the best short-term opportunities for contributing to climate change mitigation and for advancing the goals of the Paris Agreement