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CATF in Ecuador: Supporting efforts to address methane emissions in the oil and gas sector

July 19, 2022 Work Area: Methane

The oil and gas sector is one of the world’s leading emitters of methane – which is a key driver of global warming. Due to methane’s short-lived nature in the atmosphere, reducing methane emissions is one of the best strategies we have to slow the rate of warming we’ll experience in the next 20 years. Fortunately, the solutions to reduce methane, especially in the oil and gas sector, are readily available. That’s why we at Clean Air Task Force (CATF) are working to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas around the world – including in Ecuador.  

Gas flares in Ecuador

After years of collaboration, CATF formalized our partnership in June of last year with the Ecuadorean Ministry of Energy and Mines.i Through our collaboration, we support Ecuador on its path toward methane emissions reductions by developing capacities for best practice implementation, preparing a national oil and gas methane inventory, and providing expertise during the development of methane regulations. This project is consistent with other initiatives Ecuador has to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas industry which include: 

  • The World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring (ZRF) by 2030 Initiative, endorsed in 2019 (inefficient flaring is one of the biggest sources of methane emissions worldwide). The need to reduce flaring has become even more urgent following a 2020 lawsuit by civil-society actors and its 2021 decision.ii 
  • The National Plan Towards Decarbonization, launched in September 2021, which will define the pathways to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in all sectors. 
  • The Global Methane Pledge, signed during COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021, to reduce methane emissions at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030, which could eliminate over 0.2˚C warming by 2050.  

For over a year, the official collaboration between Ecuador’s stakeholders and CATF staff took place virtually, so you can imagine our excitement to finally travel to Ecuador and meet in-person just a few weeks ago. First, CATF Campaign Manager James Turitto traveled directly to the Amazon region with an optical gas imaging camera to survey the extent of the problem. He was able to record footage of methane plumes that would be otherwise invisible at the facilities visited, underscoring the importance of the work our team set out to do. Next, James flew to Quito and was met by Jonathan Banks, Alfredo Miranda Gonzalez, Joshua Flores, and Paula García Holley from our team and David Neira our local expert consultant for a week of meetings with Ecuadorean government officials, as well as a joint workshop with the Ministry of Energy and Mines. 

The CATF team at the Ministry of Energy and Mines. From left to right: Joshua Flores, James Turitto, Paula García Holley, Jonathan Banks, and Alfredo Miranda-González

The highlight of the week was our workshop, Beyond CO2: Methane emissions management in the oil and gas sector, a one-day event devoted to oil and gas methane with key stakeholders from various government agencies and private industry. It featured more than 30 high-level attendants and 12 speakers, including: 

  • CATF (Jonathan Banks, James Turitto, and Alfredo Miranda-González). 

We focused on the importance of reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector, and the existing opportunities to do so in Ecuador; technical and regulatory best practices; ongoing efforts by industry; and policy development by the different government ministries. The Vice Minister of Hydrocarbons at the Ministry of Energy and Mines gave the opening speech at the workshop and highlighted the government’s awareness of the need to advance climate action. He also stressed the country’s commitment to Zero Routine Flaring and the possibility to reduce approximately more than half of the country’s existing methane emissions by applying best practices, as estimated with CATF’s tool CoMAT

Beyond CO2 Workshop speakers and participants

Similarly, EP Petroecuador spoke about its commitment to take action on methane emissions reduction and opened its doors for a week-long methane leak detection site-visit. Characteristic of Ecuador’s cooperation was not only EP Petroecuador’s willingness for CATF to visit their sites, but more so their willingness to share CATF’s findings at the workshop with all attendees. Through the visualization of methane leaks, the importance of implementing leak detection and repair programs became apparent to EP Petroecuador staff (who became invested in repairing the methane leaks observed) and all workshop attendees. 

Operators using CATF’s OGI camera to identify methane emissions from tanks 

From the moment the collaboration with the Ecuadorean Government began last year, it was clear to us that Ecuador’s commitment to reduce methane emissions from both public and private sectors in a collaborative and transparent way is unique. During our Beyond CO2 workshop, we facilitated honest discussions, pointing to genuine barriers to reduce emissions, which must be overcome using new approaches. We do not doubt that the ongoing cooperation will continue and that, among its multiple roles, CATF will continue to provide technical expertise and facilitate key engagements with national and subnational regulatory agencies to leverage the experiences from other jurisdictions in Latin America, such as Mexico, thus supporting the development and implementation of methane regulations for the oil and gas industry in Ecuador.  

After a week of running around at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters, we had finally caught our breath. As we said our goodbyes at the hotel lobby and began our return home, there was a renewed sense of excitement and hope. We knew it would only be a matter of time before the team meets again in Quito to celebrate the publication of the first-ever Ecuadorean methane regulations for the oil and gas sector. 

For more on CATF’s work to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector in Latin America, check out this recent piece on methane leadership in Mexico and how we helped Colombia implement South America’s first methane regulations. 

i It recently changed its name from the Ministry of Energy and Non-Renewable Natural Resources. 

ii Reuters, Ecuadorean indigenous groups demand removal of hundreds of gas flares

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