BRUSSELS – Clean Air Task Force has released a report documenting methane pollution from oil and gas infrastructure within the EU. The report, which is based on trips to over 430 oil and gas sites between February 2021 and March 2023, shows that methane pollution remains widespread, with 881 sources of emissions documented across 15 countries.
“Almost everywhere we go, we find methane. Up and down the value chain and across geographies, there is dangerous methane pollution coming out of Europe’s oil and gas network,” said Theophile Humann-Guilleminot, one of CATF’s certified thermographers working to collect evidence of methane emissions in the field.
The emissions observed predominantly came from storage tanks, emergency relief stacks, unlit flares, and other miscellaneous leaks from piping equipment. We also observed various types of failures resulting in methane pollution directly from the wellhead in nine oil and gas producing countries (Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Germany, and UK), with Romania illustrating a significant problem.
Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, and reducing its emissions is crucial for meeting the EU’s climate goals. With the invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s need to diversify oil and gas supply, methane has also emerged as a major energy security consideration. As the RePowerEU announcement showcased, reducing methane leaks around the world could help make up near-term shortfalls in energy for Europe while reducing global emissions – a win-win for the planet.
“Europe has the opportunity pass world-leading legislation, as long as Parliament backs the compromise amendments passed in April,” said Alessia Virone, CATF’s EU Affairs Director. “With the full weight of Parliament and continued leadership from the Commission, the EU could set a new bar for cutting methane and reinvigorate the global effort to slow near-term warming.”
The version agreed on by the relevant committees within Parliament on April 26 was a major step forward. They included requirements for companies to detect and repair leaks in their operations, ban venting and flaring, as well as introduce performance standards for the sector, and a total emission reduction target to be set before 2026. Crucially, they also included world firsts: a methane performance standard of 0.2% or below, and the expansion of methane measures to oil and gas being imported into the EU.
As the large majority of emissions due to EU gas consumption actually take place outside of the EU borders, this extension of mitigation measures could have a major impact into cleaning up the value-chain and cutting methane globally. The EU’s gas imports market touches on over 51% of global production.
Methane pollution in the energy sector is not just a climate problem, it is also a huge waste of energy that can be harnessed to help solve Europe’s ongoing energy crisis. In the RePowerEU strategy, the Commission announced a program called “you collect, we buy” that could be harnessed to reduce the 210 billion cubic metres of gas that is wasted globally through flaring, venting and fugitive emissions.
CATF and YouGov polling indicates that measures on imports are highly popular with Europeans, with 90% of respondents calling for rules for export countries. Even when the introduction of such measures were to increase household energy costs, 67% of respondents supported or strongly supported the idea.
Methane is 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period and is responsible for 0.5°C of the warming the earth has experienced to date. Because of its potency — and its short lifespan compared to carbon dioxide — cutting methane pollution is the fastest way to slow the escalating rate of global warming. The world’s leading climate scientists agree that we will not be able to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees or any target without drastically cutting our anthropogenic methane emissions.
Rowan Emslie, Communications Director, EU, [email protected], +32 476-97-36-42
About Clean Air Task Force
Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is a global nonprofit organization working to safeguard against the worst impacts of climate change by catalyzing the rapid development and deployment of low-carbon energy and other climate-protecting technologies. With 25 years of internationally recognized expertise on climate policy and a fierce commitment to exploring all potential solutions, CATF is a pragmatic, non-ideological advocacy group with the bold ideas needed to address climate change. CATF has offices in Boston, Washington D.C., and Brussels, with staff working virtually around the world.