RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – The International Energy Forum (IEF) has concluded a project to develop a standardized methodology to better estimate methane emissions from the energy industry, enabling countries to address a major cause of global warming ahead of COP26 and beyond.
Methane emissions are a leading driver of climate change, second only to carbon dioxide, but currently reported emissions are only about 10 percent of what is observed by satellite. Cutting methane emissions is regarded as the single most effective way to slow global warming in the near term and keep the goal of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius within reach.
The methodology was the result of four months of work, including workshops and bilateral meetings with IEF members, in collaboration with advanced data analytics firm Kayrros. The IEF has issued a report on the initiative detailing the methodology, which comprises three key metrics: methane intensities of hydrocarbon production across the supply chain, super-emitter events, and flaring intensities.
"This standardized methodology is an essential tool for any country hoping to manage methane emissions from the energy industry using authoritative data based on satellite observations," said IEF Secretary General Joseph McMonigle. "It will be a valuable asset for countries to present credible plans for reducing their methane emissions in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) ahead of the COP26 in November."
The methodology integrates top-down and bottom-up approaches to accurately estimate methane emissions. It uses publicly available satellite data from Sentinel-5P, part of the Copernicus constellation of satellites operated by the European Space Agency, in concert with artificial intelligence and advanced algorithms to detect and measure methane emissions. It also ground-truths satellite data by integrating corporate data as well as country-level data.
"This methodology offers an opportunity for countries to deliver credible plans for methane mitigation based on objective data," said Antoine Rostand, Founder and President of Kayrros. "Eliminating methane hotspots is key to ensuring that the world reaches the Paris climate goal."
The IEF Methane Initiative is complementary to several other global methane projects, including the Global Methane Pledge, an initiative signed last month by the US and EU to cut global methane emissions by at least 30 percent from 2020 levels by 2030. The pledge specifically calls on countries to use "best available inventory methodologies to quantify methane emissions, with a particular focus on high emission sources".
About 30 percent of the warming since the pre-industrial era is caused by anthropogenic methane emissions, according to a United Nations Environment Program report published this year.
The energy sector is responsible for nearly 40 percent of anthropogenic methane, with most emissions coming from a small number of events that can be remedied at little-to-no net cost.
"Methane emissions are truly the low-hanging fruit for climate action," said Dr Leila R. Benali, Chief Economist at the IEF. "This methodology provides an acceptable level of accuracy, so countries can invest resources in mitigation rather than debating the numbers."
Following the conclusion of the IEF Methane Initiative, there are several next steps expected from member countries, including engaging with trading partners to agree on monitoring and verification standards, and evolving the methodology as technology continues to advance.