New Environmental-Industry Science Initiative Could Help Inform Opportunities for Global Methane Reductions

December 8, 2015
Lauren Whittenberg, 512-691-3437,


Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), a leading global non-profit organization based in the U.S., announced alongside the Climate and Clean Air Coalition that it will participate in a new international science collaborative with oil and gas producers on a research series intended to increase the understanding of the global sources and magnitude of oil and gas methane emissions. BG Group, ENI, and Total are the three initial participating oil and gas companies.

“The biggest, cheapest and quickest way to make progress on climate change right now is to cut methane pollution, said Fred Krupp, EDF President, at a press event during the 2015 Paris Climate Conference yesterday.

“With existing technology, we can cut this harmful pollution while increasing the amount of energy available. If we get methane right, it can help the world transition to a cleaner lower carbon future. If we get it wrong it will make things a lot worse, he added.

Natural gas is over 95 percent methane and is a highly potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, because its short-term impact is 84 times greater than carbon dioxide on a twenty year basis. According to data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane pollution is responsible for 25% of the warming our planet is experiencing today.

The oil and gas industry is the largest industrial source of methane emissions. A Rhodium analysis found that the total amount of methane escaping from oil and gas operations worldwide have a short-term climate impact equivalent to 40% of global coal combustion and wastes the equivalent of all the natural gas produced by Norway, the world’s 7th largest producer.

The International Energy Administration identified reducing oil and gas methane emissions as one of five critical strategies to peak global greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and as a “missed opportunity” unless countries develop oil and gas methane reduction goals and the regulations required to meet those goals.

The international methane science collaborative plans to design its study series using a model EDF helped pioneer in the United States – an extensive research effort that involved 50 academic and research institutions and 50 oil and gas companies engaged in a rigorous, scientific process to fill methane emissions data gaps. A model that has so far yielded 25 independent, peer-reviewed studies and collectively advanced what is known about the sources of oil and gas methane, while informing policy actions in the U.S. to reduce these emissions.

“Cutting oil and gas methane emissions is the single biggest untapped opportunity we have to slow near-term warming now. In places like Colorado, we’ve already seen that big methane reductions are possible at low costs. These are some of the most inexpensive pollution controls available anywhere, for any industry – where the problem can be fixed for pennies,” said Krupp.

Studies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico indicate it is achievable to reduce at least 40% of oil and gas methane emissions below projected 2020 levels for about a one cent per thousand cubic feet using cost-effective, readily available technologies. 


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