Top emitters underreport coal, oil & gas methane emissions – study

Coal-fired power plant. (Reference image from Pxfuel.)

Underreporting of methane emissions by the four largest emitters – the US, Russia, Venezuela, and Turkmenistan – means that the oil and gas sector releases 30% more of the greenhouse gas than what the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has on record.

A recent study by researchers at Peking University used 22 months (May 2018–Feb. 2020) of satellite observation data from the Tropospheric Monitoring Instrument – launched in October 2017 – which provides considerably high global data density. They were able to quantify country-by-country methane emissions more accurately than previous studies.

The group’s optimized estimates of global methane emissions are 62.7 ± 11.5 Tg a−1 (million tons per year) for the oil and gas sector and 32.7 ± 5.2 Tg a−1 for the coal sector.

From the total, eight countries have methane emission intensities from the oil and gas sector exceeding 5% of their gas production. Lowering these intensities to the global average level of 2.4% would reduce global oil and gas emissions by 11 Tg a−1 or 18%.

The Global Methane Pledge signed by more than 110 countries commits them to reducing collective methane emissions by 30% by 2030.

As the fossil fuel industry accounts for about one-third of total anthropogenic methane emissions, the study considers crucial targeting such sources of pollution.

Methane stands as the second most important greenhouse gas caused by human activities after CO2 and has been responsible for 0.6°C global warming since preindustrial times.