Fossil fuel producers — and governments captured by the industry — know full well that methane is a serious contributor to climate change. Invisible and odorless, the super powerful greenhouse gas has greater — estimated 80x to 86x — global warming potential than carbon dioxide in the 20 years following release. Scientists believe methane is responsible for about a quarter of the increase in global temperatures caused by humans.
In 2019, Harvard’s Yuzhong Zhang studied methane emissions using data from the infrared sensor of a European Space Agency satellite. Dr. Zhang focused on an area of oil and gas production in southwestern USA and he found massive amounts of methane pouring into the atmosphere.
PermianMAP is an initiative of Environmental Defense Fund, a leading international non-profit organization. EDF uses state-of-the-art technologies to identify and measure methane emissions from production sites in the Permian Basin of Texas and New Mexico.
International Energy Agency (IEA) says methane emissions are the second-largest cause of global warming today. While immensely dangerous, these discharges represent low hanging fruit for climate action. Collecting fugitive emissions can also realize value but producers, particularly small companies, are reluctant to ameliorate the problem since there are no material consequences for doing nothing.
Capturing Methane From Oil And Gas Operations Is Doable And Profitable, Forbes, May 2021:
Unintended methane releases could upend global efforts to curb climate change…
…without methane controls, the world can’t limit temperature increases, which then dampens the prospects for natural gas usage; methane is a byproduct of natural gas that, if captured from leaking pipelines and new wells, can be resold.
“Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years and complements necessary efforts to reduce carbon dioxide,” says Inger Andersen, executive director of United Nations Environment Program.
Writing in Forbes, EDF attorney Rosalie Winn noted industry resistance to addressing methane emissions from the oil and gas. American Petroleum Institute (API) and others in industry pressed for dramatically weakened standards that address oil and gas emissions.
This common demand is often couched in calls for reduced red tape, something that appeals to all who don’t bother to think about the potential outcomes of ineffective or eliminated regulation.
Regarding methane, the general public is unaware:
Methane has also been hiding from the press which has paid most attention to controlling carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas (GHG). But the poor sister has now awakened to tell us she is responsible for 25% of present global warming. The world should have had a second Paris Agreement for methane back in 2015.
British Columbia’s regulator, the Oil & Gas Commission, is headed by anti-regulator and BC Deputy Minister Fazil Mihlar. OGC is not an alarmist on methane. Quite the opposite. Although it reports the effects of methane to be “25 times greater global warming potential than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period“, that is lower than the number used by others and they fail to publish the 20 year effect, something more than three times larger.
Methane is a powerful greenhouses gas with a 100-year global warming potential 28-34 times that of CO2. Measured over a 20-year period, that ratio grows to 84-86 times. About 60% of global methane emissions are due to human activities.UNECE Sustainable Development Goals
BC’s OGC admits oil and gas production is responsible for almost one-fifth of emissions in the provincial greenhouse gas inventory and the industry is a large source of BC’s escaped methane. But university researchers in Canada have determined that methane emissions are routinely undercounted.
According to EDF, emission numbers used by industry “are a blend of half-baked, fully cooked and flat-out wrong.” Gas imaging thermography by independent investigators show that fugitive emissions are far higher than admitted by producers and producer friendly regulators.
For many people, 2021 has shown the need to focus on climate change. But doing that is near impossible because of the weight and influence of special interests. The Climate Accountability Institute reported in 2017 that relatively few companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. Those corporations earned billions but the costs of climate change will measure in the trillions and that will be borne by all.
Change is possible. Maybe it will involve Wind Catching Systems, a company backed by Norwegian billionaire Johan H. Andresen and public company North Energy ASA.
There is a rising tide of people serious about addressing climate change but governments are mostly satisfied with merely faking an appearance of real climate action. In the current Canadian election, we’re seeing many promises but the likelihood of substantive action remains low.
A revealing article about the difficulties visited on people who interfere with the powerful fossil fuel industries:
I don’t put myself on anywhere near the same level as Cornell Professors Anthony Ingraffea and Robert Howarth but my targeting of special interests has resulted in consequences. In late 2020, my computer system was hacked and my electronic files deleted. Even my cloud storage backups were destroyed. I’ve been able to restore many of the files from other places but documents older than ten years are not readily accessible.
I’ve not mentioned this publicly before but this was not the first effort to interfere with my work. Laila Yuile experienced a few hacking attacks and I’m sure it disrupted her work and contributed to her withdrawal from public commentary. A sad loss for people of British Columbia when Laila ended her regular commentary.
Categories: Climate Change