Methane emissions remained stubbornly high in 2022 even as soaring energy prices made actions to reduce them cheaper than ever.
The IEA’s Global Methane Tracker shows the oil and gas sector could slash emissions of potent greenhouse gas using only a fraction of its bumper income from the energy crisis.A combination of high energy prices, security of supply concerns and economic uncertainty were not enough to drive down methane emissions last year, according to new IEA analysis.
The IEA’s latest update of its Global Methane Tracker found that the global energy industry was responsible for 135 million tonnes of methane released into the atmosphere in 2022, only slightly below the record highs seen in 2019. Today, the energy sector accounts for around 40% of total methane emissions attributable to human activity, second only to agriculture.
Methane is responsible for around 30% of the rise in global temperatures since the Industrial Revolution. It dissipates faster than carbon dioxide but is a much more powerful greenhouse gas during its short lifespan. Cutting methane emissions is one of the most effective ways to limit global warming and improve air quality in the near term. This year’s report also includes methane emissions from coal mines and measures to cut them by half.
Methane emissions from oil and gas alone could be reduced by 75% with existing technologies, highlighting a lack of industry action on an issue that is often very cheap to address. Less than 3% of the income accrued by oil and gas companies worldwide last year would be required to make the $100 billion investment in technologies needed to achieve this reduction.
“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,” said IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol. “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.
Stopping all non-emergency flaring and venting of methane is the most impactful measure countries can take to rein in emissions. Around 260 billion cubic metres (bcm) of methane is currently lost to the atmosphere each year from oil and gas operations. Three-quarters of this could be retained and brought to market using tried and tested policies and technologies.