Fossil fuel industry has no excuse for methane leaks: IEA

According to a report released by the International Energy Agency, the fossil fuel industry has failed to address methane emissions despite promises to fix leaky infrastructure.

A potent greenhouse gas responsible for roughly a third of global temperature rise since the industrial revolution, methane, was released into the atmosphere by the global energy industry in 2022.

In spite of high energy prices and surging natural gas demand, last year’s emissions were only slightly below the record high released in 2019.

Natural gas is primarily composed of methane, so captured emissions can be used as fuel.

While some progress has been made, “emissions remain far too high and not falling fast enough,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement. “There is no excuse.”

As a percentage of human activity, the energy sector accounts for about 40% of all methane emissions.

According to the IEA, methane emissions from oil and gas alone can be reduced by three-quarters with existing technologies and modest investments of less than 3% of oil and gas company profits.

Rob Jackson, an earth system scientist at Stanford University, said oil and gas companies should use some of last year’s record profits to curb pollution. “We need to price methane pollution like carbon dioxide pollution is priced in some countries.”

Despite major emitters such as China and Russia, more than 150 countries have pledged to cut global methane emissions by at least 30% by the end of this decade. Through the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership and the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative, dozens of oil companies have voluntarily pledged to cut emissions.

“There are a lot of pledges around, but what you need is a forcing mechanism,” said Georges Tijbosch, CEO of MIQ.

In order to avoid global warming exceeding 1.5 Celsius and unleashing more severe impacts, NOAA physical scientist Lori Bruhwiler says rapid reductions in methane emissions must accompany deep reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

The consequences if countries and companies fail to curb methane will make it harder for us to reach 1.5, she said.

In 2022, satellites detected more than 500 super-emitting events from oil and gas operations and another 100 from coal mines, according to the IEA report.



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