Identifying and addressing methane emissions

What are methane emissions?
Methane is a colourless and odourless gas with the chemical composition CH4. It is the main constituent of natural gas, a fuel that supports energy security and energy transition around the world.

Methane is emitted from a variety of natural and anthropogenic (human-influenced) sources, including landfills, oil and natural gas production, agricultural activities, coal mining, wastewater treatment and industrial processes.

Natural gas industry emissions of methane come from venting (the safety-related controlled release of unwanted gases), flaring (safe burning of excess gas to allow for maintenance activities at LNG facilities), combustion (including use of gas to produce electricity) and fugitive emissions (leaks from infrastructure or equipment).

Why are methane missions such a concern?
While methane has a shorter atmospheric lifespan than another high-profile greenhouse gas in carbon dioxide (CO2), it also traps more heat per molecule because of its structure.

Given the Paris Agreement target to limit the global average temperature increase to “well below 2°C above preindustrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels”, there is a strong resolve to address methane ambitions wherever possible.

Alongside the waste and agricultural industries, global energy players – including the natural gas/LNG sectors – are taking active steps to track, mitigate and eliminate methane emissions. Asia Natural Gas and Energy Association (ANGEA) member companies are strongly committed to tackling the issue of methane emissions.

What are some of the challenges with methane emissions?
Detecting methane emissions and then accurately pinpointing their source-of-origin is no simple task. As noted above, methane is odourless and colourless, while natural gas/LNG production facilities can be vast and pipelines used to transport gas vaster still.

Developments in technology continue to provide new and innovative ways to detect methane emissions and deal with them in faster timeframes. Whereas detection once depended on handheld devices, satellites, drones, aircraft, and fixed sensors are now being used by ANGEA member companies to assess methane emissions and it is possible to measure methane activity from a facility in a number of hours.

Aerial LiDAR – laser image, detection and ranging – is another technique that can be employed to highlight methane plumes and help track the emissions back to their source.

Real-time tracking of operational parameters in a control room can also be used to predict, prevent, and mitigate some potential emissions.

What steps is the gas industry taking about methane?
Given projections that up to 200 million metric tonnes of additional capacity will be required to meet global LNG demand by 2050, there is strong recognition in the gas industry of the need to continually step up and refine efforts to detect methane emissions and, wherever feasible, to mitigate and eliminate them. Much of this increasing demand for LNG will come from Asia.

Collaboration will be a key to achieving methane emission reductions. A Joint Statement on Accelerating Methane Mitigation from the LNG Value Chain, announced in 2023, incorproates two major supplier countries (the US and Australia) and three major users of LNG (Japan, South Korea and the European Union).

An ASEAN Energy Sector Methane Leadership Program was also announced in 2023, featuring Malaysia’s natural energy company Petronas, the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC) and ASEAN energy operators, governmental agencies, and international organisations.

These partnerships will complement the Global Methane Pledge, which was launched at COP26 in 2021 and has more than 120 participating countries.

ANGEA members are involved in a variety of initiatives to reduce methane emissions. Japan’s biggest power producer, JERA, has announced in that it is partnering Korea’s KOGAS on the Coalition for LNG Emission Abatement toward Net-zero (CLEAN), an initiative that will target methane emissions in the LNG value chain.

A number of ANGEA members, including Chevron, ExxonMobil and Sempra Infrastructure, are supporting GTI Veritas, which aims to develop gas industry technical protocols for measurement, audit and assurance of methane emissions, and provide a widely accepted methodology to incorporate field-informed methane quantification into emissions inventories. The protocols are being developed with technical experts, leading academics, environmental non-governmental organisations and representatives from the gas industry.

Chevron, ExxonMobil and Woodside Energy are signatories to the Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions initiative, while several ANGEA members have reported methane emissions reductions of between 40 and 70 per cent since the middle of the last decade.

ANGEA itself supported the Innovative Technologies to Identify and Measure Oil and Gas Sector Methane Emissions workshop held in Bangkok in December 2022. The regional Southeast Asia USAID event was jointly developed by the USAID Smart Power Program in collaboration with the ASEAN Centre for Energy.

ANGEA is an industry association representing LNG and natural gas producers, energy buyers, suppliers and companies in APAC. Based in Singapore, it works in partnership with governments and societies across the region to deliver reliable and secure energy solutions that achieve national economic, energy security, social and environmental objectives and meet global climate goals.