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Why Methane Matters: The Fastest Way to Get Us to Net Zero

Updated: Aug 29, 2023

There’s no way around it — methane matters, and matters big.

The hazardous impact of the colorless and odorless natural gas is difficult to overestimate.

The second largest contributor to climate change, invisible and mostly undetected methane emissions makeup at least 25% of the net impact of all greenhouse emissions.

While CO2 enters the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, solid waste, trees and other biological materials, methane (CH4) is emitted or leaked during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from the decay of waste in waste landfills and from livestock and other agricultural practices.

A whopping 60% of methane emissions today are the result of human industries.

And the second largest source of human-caused methane emissions is the energy sector with oil and gas operations representing the largest source.

In fact, the IEA’s latest update of its “Global Methane Tracker” found that the global energy industry was responsible for 135 million tonnes of methane released into the atmosphere in 2022.

The IEA also reports 500 previously undetected super-emitting methane events at oil and gas operations around the world in 2022 alone.

One staggering example is the recently detected methane super-emitters in Turkmenistan.

Methane leaks alone from Turkmenistan’s two main fossil fuel fields were estimated to have caused more global warming in 2022 than the entire carbon emissions of the UK.

Countless others across the globe are going undetected at this very moment.

Climate Impact of Methane

Due to its carbon core and hydrogen bonds, methane traps more heat in the atmosphere per molecule than carbon dioxide, making it 80 times more harmful for two decades after it’s released into the atmosphere.

Methane, however, also remains in the atmosphere for less time than CO2. The average atmospheric lifetime of methane is around 12 years, compared to some carbon missions which linger in the atmosphere for thousands of years.

This means that reducing human-caused methane emissions in industries such as the energy sector can have an immediate impact on global warming. It’s the most pressing quick win in our global race to cap global temperature rises to the Paris Agreement goal of 1.5 C annually.

Cutting human-caused methane by 45% over the next decade would keep global warming under the 1.5-degree threshold. In the fight against global warming, significantly reducing methane emissions is an absolutely essential, short-term step in avoiding climate change tipping points.

The Methane Moment

The critical importance of tackling methane emissions for the fight against global warming has spurred a robust push for methane emissions regulations across the globe.

In the US, the Biden Administration has allocated $20 Billion for methane emissions reduction. The plan, unveiled at last year’s COP27 climate conference, includes 50 specific regulatory measures backed by more than $20 billion in new investments to tackle methane emissions.

Funding for the plan will be derived from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, which includes a first-ever national methane emissions fee of $900 per metric ton of methane for some oil and gas facilities that will go into effect in 2024 and increase to $1,500 per metric ton of methane in 2026.

On July, 26, 2023, the White House held the first ever White House Methane Summit to address the critical importance of reducing methane emissions and methane detection and monitoring technologies. The White House announced the creation of a “Methane Task Force” to support state and local efforts to mitigate and enforce methane emissions regulations.

In Europe, the EU Parliament recently adopted official support for a future methane law. The law would be the first piece of EU legislation aimed at cutting methane emissions and covers direct methane emissions from the oil, gas and coal sectors, as well as from biomethane — once it’s injected into the gas network.

The Parliament also urged the European Commission to propose a binding 2030 reduction target for EU methane emissions for all relevant sectors by the end of 2025. Member states would then be obligated to set national reduction targets as part of their integrated national energy and climate plans.

Detecting and Monitoring Methane Emissions To make both regulation and compliance possible and to drastically reduce global methane emissions, precise detecting and monitoring technologies are essential. As experts in emissions monitoring and intelligence, Momentick stands on the forefront of this fight, offering the technology that empowers stakeholders to address methane emissions effectively with evidence-based and data-driven decision-making and policy.

Momentick’s advanced algorithms applied to satellite imagery offer a revolutionary approach to detecting and monitoring methane emissions on a global scale. By autonomously identifying methane hotspots, leaks and recovering opportunities and accurately measuring emissions, our technology delivers the essential data insights to industries, governments, and environmental organizations. This precision in methane monitoring enables decision makers to take fast action to handle methane emissions. Early detection of methane leaks in oil and gas operations, for example, allows for rapid repairs and mitigation efforts, preventing further releases into the atmosphere and potential environmental disasters like super emitters.

This near-real-time monitoring capability also empowers companies to make informed decisions in their emission reduction strategies, measure and verify their performance and do more to the global fight against climate change.

Methane Emissions Cost Industries Big

The environmental urgency to stop methane emissions is only part of the story.

According to numerous estimates, the wasted methane from leaks translates into roughly a total of $30 billion of lost revenue for the global gas industry.

Emissions are costing industries, such as oil and gas, major opportunities.

This is because unlike other greenhouse gases, methane can be converted into usable energy. The conversion of methane from a hazardous greenhouse gas to a robust energy source offers massive opportunities for oil and gas companies.

For example, a 2018 study found that the methane leaking rate from oil and gas operations is 2.3%. If that methane could be captured and sold to chemical makers and manufacturers, natural gas producers would increase their revenues by an estimated $188 million yearly.

Put simply: with the right tools, the cost of taking essential steps to saving the planet is zero.

Methane’s powerful potential and the way forward

While there’s no doubt that methane’s moment is now, the global challenge of undetected emissions remains.

A breadth of studies and articles have demonstrated that methane leakage in the production process throws a major wrench into methane’s potential to be a clean energy bridge to the future.

Methane emissions detection and monitoring is the way forward to both reduce methane emissions and continue developing methane-powered energy.

The key to achieving the international benchmarks for methane emissions reduction and further developing the gas’ energy potential lies in technologies like Momentick.

With the correct tools, governments, climate organizations and gas companies will be able to prevent dangerous amounts of methane from pouring into the air, harness methane as an essential alternative to dirtier fossil fuels and seize the methane moment to get us all to net-zero.



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