Addressing the barriers to reducing methane emissions
July 22, 2020
If one message has remained front of mind in the climate debate through this year of unexpected events and uncertainties, it is the need to reduce methane emissions urgently to effectively tackle climate change.
Methane is responsible for around a quarter of today’s global warming, according to the IPCC, and emissions are growing.
That is why OGCI remains focused on reducing methane emissions to near zero as a top priority for member companies’ own operations. OGCI is making solid progress on its methane intensity ambition, launched in 2018. And its newly released carbon intensity target, which builds on and encapsulates OGCI’s methane emissions reduction efforts, will encourage further action on the part of member companies as they reduce their carbon footprint.
Beyond these collective targets, however, OGCI and its $1B+ Climate Investments fund (OGCI CI) are honing in on the gaps that need to be addressed to accelerate emissions reduction across the entire oil and gas value chain. These gaps range from lack of data transparency around flaring and methane emissions to capital constraints that are blocking the deployment of mitigation projects in the wider industry.
Transparency on flaring
Flaring – the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction – emits more than 400 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions into the atmosphere every year, according to the World Bank. Its latest data indicates there is no sign of this abating. It is reporting that 2019 global gas flaring volumes increased to 150 billion cubic meters – levels not seen in more than 10 years and equivalent to the total annual gas consumption of Sub-Saharan Africa. That is why supporting the aims of the Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative is a condition of OGCI membership.
To build on existing action taken by OGCI and its members to reduce flaring, OGCI is committing nearly $1 million to develop a publicly available online tool to map gas flaring data, working with the Payne Institute for Public Policy at Colorado School of Mines. The programme has been developed under the umbrella of the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership (GGFR), a World Bank led organization.
Based on observations from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) satellite, which has been in orbit since 2012, the Global Gas Flaring Explorer platform will develop more accurate algorithms to identify which flares are active and which have been extinguished, and track how flare volume has changed over time. In addition to OGCI’s financial contribution, member companies will provide flaring data to help calibrate models based on the VIIRS satellite observations.
Why is this significant? Currently, many organizations use data from VIIRS and other satellites to estimate flare gas volumes. But since the interpretation methodologies used by each differ, the results differ too. This platform will compare the satellite observations with bottom-up data from specific assets to support the programme’s ambition to provide the most comprehensive listing of gas flares worldwide – at global, national and site level.
Publicly available from early 2022, this platform will improve the ability to monitor and demonstrate progress towards the elimination of routine flaring. Increased knowledge is the first step towards improved mitigation, and this enhanced data will enable policy makers and the oil and gas industry to make more informed and precise decisions to reduce flaring, which is critical to tackling climate change.
Bridging the capital gap to accelerate momentum for projects
OGCI Climate Investments has long recognised the importance of providing methane emissions data to companies so that they can fix the problem. It has three portfolio companies focused on methane detection and measurement using satellites, aircraft and drones. This year, however, the combined impact of Covid-19 and the oil price collapse, has exacerbated the capital constraints that make it hard for smaller operations to invest in projects to act on such data and reduce methane emissions.
That is why OGCI CI has launched a global investment call to solicit commercially and operationally viable projects that can demonstrate significant methane reduction at any point in the oil and gas value chain and from any region.
OGCI CI is welcoming owners, operators, service companies, project developers and solution providers to submit their project proposals for investment consideration. Projects can be focused on, but not limited to, minimizing flares, eliminating venting, reducing leaks and ensuring complete combustion. Applications are open until September 14.
With so many ‘unknowns’ about the long-term impact of this pandemic and what it means for how we live, it is important to act on the ‘knowns’. Reducing methane emissions at the pace and scale required to slow global warming and achieve net zero emissions is an urgent priority. It will remain a key focus for OGCI and its investment fund as they seek to focus their resources to achieve meaningful emissions reduction today and in the near future.