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IEF points to 'emerging consensus' on methane emissions methodology

Highlights

Launched measurement scheme in June, eyes accord by September

Initiative to tackle energy sector methane emissions

Methane reductions 'lowest hanging fruit' for energy sector

The International Energy Forum, or IEF, said July 19 there was an "emerging consensus" for a common measurement methodology for methane emissions from the energy industry.

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The IEF in June launched a new initiative to develop a methodology on methane emissions, allowing its member countries to collect standardized data, and has now held its first technical workshop.

The workshop gathered selected countries representing almost half of global oil and gas production, one third of coal production, a third of hydrocarbon consumption, and a third of global carbon dioxide and methane emissions, the IEF said.

"Member countries have embraced this initiative as critical and timely in the industry's fight against global warming," IEF chief economist Leila Benali said.

"Judging from the emerging consensus and the engagement of the country representatives, we can say that the first phase of the project is successfully reaching its primary objective to bring a majority of countries together to agree on a common standardized methodology," Benali said.

Methane is a much more powerful climate pollutant than carbon dioxide, with estimates suggesting it is 84 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.

The IEF said that in the absence of standards, experts estimate that currently reported methane emissions are about 10% of what is observed by satellite.

It hopes that the common methodology will be agreed ahead of the COP26 climate change conference in November.

"The project is complementary to other efforts to reduce methane emissions, such as the Global Methane Initiative, and is expected to conclude in September," it said.

The IEF was founded in 1991 to facilitate dialogue between producer and consumer countries and is now the world's largest international energy organization with 71 members accounting for 90% of the global energy market.

Legislative proposals

Methane emissions from upstream operations have been recognized as a problem for some time, but there is increasing scrutiny of the issue, with the EU set to make legislative proposals to tackle emissions later in 2021.

The EU is also planning to work with supplier countries -- including those exporting LNG to Europe -- in order to help mitigate the impact of methane emissions from producer countries.

The initial focus in Brussels will be legislative proposals on detecting and reporting methane emissions and repairing infrastructure to eliminate the leaks.

It is widely considered that the energy industry can take the necessary action to mitigate methane emissions relatively easily and has the added economic incentive of creating additional volumes of gas for sale.

"Methane reductions might be the lowest hanging fruit for the energy industry to contribute its share to tackle climate change as a large share can be reduced at no or low cost," Benali said in June.

Many energy companies have already targeted methane by reducing emissions from gas production and distribution systems.

Common approaches include decreasing or eliminating gas venting, replacing older equipment with new low-emission equipment and enhancing leak detection and repair programs.