When you’re in a hole...09 January 2023

Steve Burnage, chair, Environmental Engineers

Environmental lobbyists are again raising concerns over methane emissions, stating that reducing them can be very effective in tackling climate change. Their finger points squarely at the oil and industry where there is demonstrable waste from simple leakage and gas flare-off (see also www.is.gd/yuzaju). They argue that this could be captured and used to generate energy to power 750,000 homes.

They aim to halt all flaring and venting by 2030, which is not too onerous target considering we in the UK are expected to run out of oil and gas by that date. But taking the UK’s methane emissions as a whole, only 11% is generated by the oil and gas industry; some 41% is by domestic waste handling and disposal, and some 48% by farming.
The low hanging fruit is of course oil and gas, which is very point-of-source and ought to be relatively straightforward to capture and distribute, save for the cost of doing so. There must come a point where the increasing price of gas makes the act of capture and distribution economically viable. However, as these wells are depleted, the volume of available gases which otherwise would be vented or flared also reduce.
On the world stage, the International Energy Agency calculates that 45% of global methane emissions could be stopped at no net cost to oil and gas companies. The will to do so, of course, comes down to financial and political pressures.
A further important unreported source of methane is in the production as well as the burning of coal. Using satellite imagery, it is estimated that Australia emitted 1.8 million tonnes of methane in 2021, simply by gas leaking from mines. The argument that we can capture the greenhouse gases while burning fossil fuels to maintain a net zero environment is simply not the case. We must stop mining it in the first place.

Steve Burnage

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