Report published: April 2015
New analysis conducted by the Rhodium Group and commissioned by EDF says that the 20-year climate impact of methane escaping from oil and gas operations worldwide has the same near-term climate impact as emissions of 40 percent of total global coal combustion. That’s because methane, the primary ingredient in natural gas and a highly potent greenhouse gas (GHG), has over 80 times the warming power of CO2. Rhodium’s study, “Untapped Potential: Reducing Global Methane Emissions from Oil and Natural Gas Systems” finds that global oil and gas emissions will grow significantly without additional efforts to avoid leakage.
The climate significance of methane presents an opportunity for countries seeking to set or meet greenhouse emission targets, but very few have taken steps to regulate methane emissions from the oil and gas sector or set specific goals to reduce leakage in the future.
Environmental Defense Fund commissioned the Rhodium Group, an international consultancy focused on analyzing disruptive global trends, to survey available information on current and historical global methane leakage, identify significant data gaps, project methane emissions growth between now and 2030, and quantify the global climate impact of action by the top emitting countries.
Key findings of Rhodium’s report
- Measuring the 20-year global warming potential of methane emissions from the sector totaled 5,650 MtCO2e–which has the same near-term impact as about 40% of total CO2 emissions from global coal combustion in 2012. Using the 100-year metric, oil and gas methane emissions would rank as the world’s seventh-largest emitter, coming in just under Russia.
- Methane emissions from the oil and gas industry – in the form of approximately 3.5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas escaping into the atmosphere in 2012–are a significant source of overall global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
- Without action, these emissions will increase more than 20 percent by 2030, versus a 15 percent increase in related CO2 emissions projected by the International Energy Agency.
- If just the top 30 oil and gas methane emitting countries were to reduce emissions 50% below 2012 levels by 2030, this would have the same near-term climate impact (over a 20-year timeline) as India and the European Union’s combined CO2 emissions from coal combustion in 2012.
- This wasted gas translates into roughly $30 billion of lost revenue at average 2012 delivered prices. The approximately 3.6 Tcf of lost natural gas across the world would rank as the world’s seventh largest natural gas producer, with nearly as much escaped gas globally as Norway’s total production in 2012.
Methane accounts for 25% of the warming we are experiencing today, and reductions of methane can deliver immediate climate benefits while nations pursue longer term strategies to reduce CO2.
This new analysis complements other research EDF is engaged in to help advance methane science and provide deeper understanding of methane emissions from the oil and natural gas supply chain, in order to inform policymakers about opportunities to reduce methane emissions.