Oil and gas facilities could profit from plugging methane leaks, IEA says

Plugging methane from leaky oil and gas facilities would be free of cost almost everywhere in the world, and in many cases would produce a significant profit, at today’s soaring gas prices, the International Energy Agency has found, suggesting that governments have few excuses for not taking action to curb emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas.

Governments have been underreporting their emissions of methane to a dramatic extent, and those emissions are still rising fast, according to the Global Methane Tracker report from the IEA published on Wednesday. Using satellites and other new data, the energy watchdog found emissions were about 70% higher than national governments had suggested, showing the need for far greater monitoring, as well as efforts to staunch leaks.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the IEA, a leading authority on energy economics, said: “At today’s elevated gas prices, nearly all of the emissions [of methane] from oil and gas operations worldwide could be avoided at no net cost. The IEA has been a longstanding champion of stronger action to cut methane emissions. A vital part of those efforts is transparency on the size and location of emissions, which is why the massive underreporting revealed by our Global Methane Tracker is so alarming.”

Russia is one of the biggest sources of methane emissions from its vast oil and gas operations, but few efforts are made there to control the leaks. According to the IEA, Turkmenistan and Texas are also leading sources of leaks.

Methane is the main component of natural gas, used for fuel, and also one of the most powerful greenhouse gases, responsible for as much as 30% of the rise in global temperatures to date. About 40% of methane emissions from human activity come from the energy sector, mostly from leaky oil and gas wells and pipelines, or fracking operations, but in many countries few attempts are made to control emissions.

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Last year, leaks from fossil fuel operations amounted to as much gas as…

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