Feb 10, 2022 - Energy & Environment

Methane emissions speed up as tracking improves

Global annual mean methane concentrations in the atmosphere
Data: NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory; Chart: Baidi Wang/Axios

An increase in atmospheric methane concentrations has been occurring at a quickening pace since 2007, alarming some scientists.

Why it matters: Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, but with a far shorter atmospheric lifespan. Policymakers have embarked on a drive to cut methane emissions as a way to tackle near-term warming.

Driving the news: Increased methane emissions from wetlands in the tropics, livestock raising and oil and gas facilities in the Northern Hemisphere are considered the most likely causes of quickening methane emissions, though uncertainties remain.

  • A new study, published in Science last week, found that significant emissions cuts could be made by focusing on so-called super emitters of the odorless greenhouse gas.

The big picture: Using data from a European Space Agency satellite, the study found “super” or “ultra” emissions events from oil and gas facilities may account for up to 12% of all the methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

What they’re saying: According to ​​Antoine Halff, co-founder and chief analyst at Kayrros, a French climate and energy data analytics company, targeting super-emitters would be especially cost-effective.

  • “These emissions are easy to remove,” Halff told Axios, as there aren’t many sources to target, and the technology exists to halt these leaks.

Go deeper: U.S. floats ideas on methane and clean power

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