More than 60 oil and gas companies committed to a new framework today to report methane emissions as the United Nations reported that atmospheric levels of the greenhouse gas reached a record high.
The plan from the Climate & Clean Air Coalition’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) tasks companies with reporting methane emissions from both their core operations as well as joint ventures. As a part of the voluntary framework, companies will share their own methane reduction targets with OGMP, an initiative managed by the U.N. Environment Programme.
The plan revamps an existing OGMP framework and calls on companies to outline how they will realize their objectives to cut methane emissions. The 62 companies that have joined OGMP represent an estimated 30% of global oil and gas production, according to the partnership. The group said it seeks to deliver a 45% reduction in the oil and gas industry’s methane emissions by 2025.
Individual targets from the companies—which include European firms like Equinor ASA, Total SE and Royal Dutch Shell PLC—will be reviewed periodically, in line with a “common objective to continuously reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Methane is the chief component of natural gas.
Mark Brownstein, a senior vice president of energy at the Environmental Defense Fund, said while the framework is voluntary, it’s still an “important contribution to advancing the cause” of lowering oil and gas methane emissions.
EDF has worked with the Climate & Clean Air Coalition since 2014, Brownstein said, and helped take OGMP and the methane reporting framework to its latest form.
“For the first time, companies are committing to regularly measure their methane emissions using strict science-based standards, as opposed to engineering estimates,” Brownstein said.
According to the separate report today from the World Meteorological Organization—a U.N. agency—methane reached a new high in 2019 and has increased 161% above preindustrial levels “due to increased emissions from anthropogenic sources,” including the fossil fuel industry.
Roughly 60% of methane emitted into the atmosphere comes from man-made sources, like the development of fossil fuels, landfills, biomass burning and agriculture, the WMO report said.
According to Brownstein, methane emission estimates based on engineering calculations by industry often understate the true amount of emissions coming from oil and gas operations. He called the oil and gas framework “a step forward” because it moves to reporting data based on field measurements and ongoing monitoring. The suite of monitoring technologies available to companies spans from the use of drones to satellites.
Still, although the partnership “applies to all segments of the oil and gas sector where material quantities of methane can be emitted,” it does not pertain to chunks like oil refining and chemical manufacturing, as well as “gas end use.”
It also does not currently include U.S. oil and gas majors, which have historically lagged behind their European counterparts when it comes to climate targets (Climatewire, Sept. 11).
Manfredi Caltagirone, a program officer with the U.N. Environment Programme, said although U.S. companies aren’t participating at the moment, the partnership is talking with multiple firms and noted that “many OGMP member companies have assets in the U.S.”
Brownstein echoed Caltagirone and said that “irrespective of whether U.S. companies or other national oil companies join, the process of bringing transparency around your emissions begins with this new program.”
The OGMP framework is meant to complement efforts like EDF’s MethaneSAT project, an initiative to measure emissions by satellite, he said. These kinds of voluntary initiatives also have to be coupled with regulations, he said, like those under development in the European Union.
“Voluntary programs are a complement to government action, but they are not a substitute for it,” Brownstein said.
He cautioned that “the degree to which this voluntary strategy results in real and substantial emissions reductions has everything to do with whether and how the companies that are committing to this program actually follow through on what they are committing to.”
A spokesperson for Shell declined to comment for the story and spokespersons for Equinor and Total did not respond to inquiries.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.