Unlike carbon dioxide, combustion is not the primary emission source for methane. Therefore, simple emission factors based on fuel use and composition, as used in classic “bottom-up” estimates of greenhouse gases, are not sufficient for detecting and quantifying methane emissions. In contrast, most methane emissions are direct leaks and releases, whether from anthropogenic, or natural sources. This is the source of a major loss of energy for consumer, and money for energy providers. In addition, because of its high global warming potential (GWP), controlling emissions of methane, even from renewable sources, (such as anaerobic digesters) is important (significant emissions of biogenic methane can potentially offset any net negative emission from biofuels for example).
There are also significant uncertainties in the overall estimates of methane emissions. For example, when evaluating CO2 emissions from the power sector, a simplistic sanity check against bottom up calculations can be done by comparing to emissions based on a country’s total fuel use (i.e. the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCCC) non source specific reference approach). Such top down order of magnitude comparisons are not possible for the methane inventory, and so comparisons must be made against levels of methane in the atmosphere. However, the disparate emissions sources and short lifetime of methane make this to say the least, a nontrivial exercise, but one that IG3IS has an obvious role to play.
Of particular interest to IG3IS are methane emissions from the oil and gas supply chain. This is because the industry is a system that in comparison with other anthropogenic sources (e.g. agriculture) is more physically concentrated and the number of actors is also relatively limited, which facilitates the implementation of mitigation strategies. Additionally, this industry has much to gain by understanding their methane emissions, as each volume lost equates to a loss in money and resources.
Overall, tackling methane emissions is a great target for IG3IS technologies, as it has the potential to create a large global impact. Recent estimates from Schwietzke et al., suggest that global fossil methane emissions (natural gas, oil, and coal production and use) could be 20-60% higher than current estimates. This highlights both the importance of mitigation of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and the urgent need for comprehensive information on emission sources.
Explore businesses who are already taking advantage of IG3IS resources and learn how it has helped in their planning. These businesses are marked by orange pins on the map on the homepage.
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