Energy Institute chief says oil and gas industry is too complacent over gas emissions

A new report published today by the Energy Institute to coincide with International Petroleum Week sheds light on the attitudes of global oil and gas professionals towards reducing the climate change impacts of natural gas. It shows:

  • 90% of oil and gas professionals surveyed see role for industry in developing and implementing carbon capture and storage (CCS). 
  • But two-thirds %66%) were surprised at the scope for reducing potent fugitive methane emissions in their own operations.

Accordingly, the Energy Institute (EI) has called for the oil and gas industry to do more to embed climate change in its operating cultures and put this a par with health and safety. 

Malcolm Brinded, President of the Energy Institute (CBE FREng FEI), said: “There’s an elephant in the room of the global energy system and it’s called natural gas.

“It looks like a golden age for gas, with unconventional production soaring and global LNG trade forecast to more than double by 2040.

“But at the same time the world has committed to keeping temperature increases within 2°C, requiring net zero emissions in the second half of this century.

“Even natural gas’s cleaner-than-coal and friend-to-renewables advantages will not be enough to square this circle. For it to fulfil its potential long-term role in the low carbon world, more must be done to clean up how it is produced and how it is burned.

“The EI report’s findings are a call for action across the industry. Just as health and safety are embedded in operating cultures, tackling climate change in all ways needs to become equally – and profoundly – part of business-as-usual. It must enter all our DNA.”

Key findings of the report:

Natural gas is an abundant and flexible fuel. It contributes to reducing climate change impacts when it displaces coal in power generation and heating, with some 40% less CO2 emitted. Gas also significantly reduces local air pollution from small particulates and from sulphur dioxide, relative to coal burning and also relative to diesel fuels in transport. 

Nevertheless methane is emitted during the production of gas. Methane as a greenhouse gas is 28–36 times more potent than CO2 over 100 years.

The International Energy Agenda (IEA), in its World Energy Outlook 2017, has assessed that much more could technically be done during production and distribution of natural gas to reduce leakage of methane.

It found that it is possible to avoid 75% of current methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain, and that 40–50% of these emissions could be avoided at no net cost.

Comments from leading oil and gas industry chiefs contained in the report include:

Christophe McGlade, Oil and Gas Analyst, IEA: “There are multiple technologies and measures available today that can be used to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. Implementing just those measures that pay for themselves, by monetising the captured methane, would have the same long-term impact on mitigating climate change as immediately shutting all existing coal-fired power plants in China.”

Maarten Wetselaar, Integrated Gas & New Technologies Director, Royal Dutch Shell: “To realise greater greenhouse gas emissions benefits, the gas industry must increase its focus on reducing emissions of methane across the value chain… Every company in the industry must take control of this issue. Measure emissions accurately. Report them in a transparent way. And continually reduce emissions to maximise the full greenhouse gas advantages of natural gas.”

Dominic Emery, Vice-President, Group Strategic Planning, BP: “Gas has many advantages as a source of energy – … it is abundant, resilient and flexible – but much of this is conditional on ‘getting gas right’. As the report shows, this means detecting and reducing methane emissions and acting on the need for abated gas in all demand sectors… Our industry holds the keys to driving this forward and making gas a destination fuel for the energy transition.”

20 Feb 2018

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