IEA Criticizes Fossil Fuel Industry for High Methane Emissions
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released its annual Global Methane Tracker, finding that methane emissions are still far too high and fossil fuel companies are doing little to curb these emissions.
According to the latest report, the energy industry was responsible for 125 million metric tons of methane emissions in 2022, despite factors that should have reduced emissions, including high energy costs, economic uncertainty and concerns over security of supply.
“Our new Global Methane Tracker shows that some progress is being made but that emissions are still far too high and not falling fast enough — especially as methane cuts are among the cheapest options to limit near-term global warming. There is just no excuse,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “The Nord Stream pipeline explosion last year released a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere. But normal oil and gas operations around the world release the same amount of methane as the Nord Stream explosion every single day.”
Methane, a greenhouse gas, makes up about 20% of global emissions, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although it is the second most abundant greenhouse gas, behind carbon dioxide, it is over 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide emissions when it comes to trapping heat, and The Associated Press noted that methane is up to 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide in the short-term.
Cutting methane emissions by at least 40% before 2030 is a crucial component to limiting warming to 1.5°C, the UN Environment Programme explained.
As the IEA explained, this greenhouse gas dissipates faster than carbon, but because of its potency, it is responsible for about 30% of global temperature increases since the Industrial Revolution.
The industry doesn’t need to wait for some far-fetched technology to reduce methane emissions. In fact, according to the IEA, oil- and gas-related methane emissions could be cut by up to 75% using existing technology in low-cost ways.
As oil and gas companies boast record profits over the last year, they’d need to only spend about 3% of income pocketed last year for the $100 billion to invest in technology to reduce methane emissions.
The report includes, for the first time, ways to reduce emissions from coal supply. In its new regulatory roadmap for reducing methane emissions from coal mines, the IEA noted that abating emissions from coal mines often presents more challenges than decreasing emissions from oil and gas operations. The agency includes policy and regulation as key factors in reducing methane emissions from coal mines.
“The untamed release of methane in fossil fuel production is a problem that sometimes goes under the radar in public debate,” Birol said. “Unfortunately, it’s not a new issue and emissions remain stubbornly high. Many companies saw hefty profits last year following a turbulent period for international oil and gas markets amid the global energy crisis. Fossil fuel producers need to step up and policy makers need to step in — and both must do so quickly.”