Methane is leaking from industry sites at rates equivalent to the annual carbon emissions of France and Germany combined, a new analysis using satellite data shows.
Using imaging data gathered by the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P monitoring mission, the study shows more than 100 “high-volume emission events” worldwide from gas storage and transmission facilities.
These events alone emitted around 20 million tonnes of methane — the short-term equivalent to releasing 1.8 billion tonnes of carbon pollution.
However. the good news is most of these are man-made and can easily be addressed through action by individual companies, governments and regulators.
The analysis showed methane plumes from just three oil and gas facilities in Algeria were emitting more than 25 tonnes of methane per hour — equivalent to the CO2 emissions from a 750 megawatt coal power plant.
While methane only stays in the atmosphere a fraction of the time that CO2 does, over a period of decades it is dozens of times more potent as a greenhouse gas.
Overall, greenhouse gas emissions from energy have risen globally nearly every year in the last decade, despite the 2015 Paris climate deal mandating their reduction.
The United Nations says that manmade emissions must decline 7.6 percent annually by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels — the more ambitious cap laid out in the Paris deal.
The International Energy Agency on March 31 released its assessment of global methane emissions, which found that about 570 million tonnes are added to the atmosphere each year — around 60 per cent of which comes from human activity.
“The ability to identify big leaks by satellite will not solve the challenge presented by methane emissions from oil and gas by itself,” the IEA said.
“Tackling them requires companies to pursue and maintain high operational standards, and policy makers to put in place well-designed regulations.”
Methane (CH4): Methane is emitted during the production and transport of coal, natural gas, and oil. Methane emissions also result from livestock and other agricultural practices and by the decay of organic waste in municipal solid waste landfills.
Read More: Overview of Greenhouse Gases