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Addressing methane emissions in Ghana’s oil and gas and waste sectors

July 13, 2023 Work Area: Methane

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is more than 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide over its first 20 years in the atmosphere. The oil and gas sector and the waste sector are two of the leading global methane emitters, with projections for continued growth in methane emissions around the world in the years and decades to come – including in Africa.   

That’s why Clean Air Task Force (CATF) is working to support governments, regulators, and the private sector in several African countries to effectively tackle the challenge and help those countries make good on their global methane commitments. Ghana, one of the leading economies in Africa, is showing a strong interest in managing its emissions both from the oil and gas and the waste sectors, and CATF is proud to support these efforts by providing technical and policy support. 

Oil and gas methane advocacy 

Ghana is an emerging player in the oil and gas industry with operations in the upstream, midstream, and downstream sectors. Upon the discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities in 2007, Ghana took concrete steps to build a successful oil and gas industry. Recent discoveries indicate that the oil and gas prospects are significant, suggesting future increase in production. As the government seeks to maximize the country’s prospects in the oil and gas industry and extend the country’s continental shelf to increase the sector’s scope, it is important to develop robust regulations and policies in line with international best practices.  

In 2022, CATF started collaborating with Ghana’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to manage its methane emissions in the oil and gas industry. CATF hosted a Best Practices Workshop in Accra in October 2022, drawing participation from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) to work with CATF’s Methane Pollution Prevention team. The event featured participants from Ghana’s oil and gas sector along with various government agencies, amounting to more than 30 high-level attendees and nine speakers. The Best Practices Workshop focused on the importance of reducing methane emissions in Ghana’s oil and gas industry, with Ghana’s EPA Deputy Executive Director giving opening remarks and highlighting Ghana’s international engagement on short lived climate pollutants (SCLPs). He stressed the government’s willingness to reduce SLCPs in line with Ghana’s 2021 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – which seeks to unconditionally lower its greenhouse gas emissions by 15% relative to a business-as-usual scenario by 2030 and additional 30% conditional emission reduction to be attainable with external support to cover the full cost of implementing the mitigation actions.  

Similarly, the EPA Director of Petroleum Department spoke on Ghana’s environmental framework for oil and gas activities, while CATF’s local expert consultant, James Ogunleye, shared the experience of regulating methane from Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. In presenting the existing tools on methane policy and regulation, IEA’s Legal Advisor highlighted the Agency’s longstanding focus on methane abatement with interesting visualizations to depict present and existing methane emission scenarios from Ghana’s energy sector. Of note in the presentation was that tackling methane emissions from the energy sector represents one of the best near-term opportunities for limiting global warming because the pathways for reducing them are well known and often cost-effective. The IEA Legal Advisor also noted that over 50% of oil and gas emissions could be reduced at no net cost using well-known existing technologies based on gas prices from Ghana as seen in recent years. Other presentations focused on detecting methane with satellites, the importance of measurements to target mitigation actions and credibly report reductions, and cost effectiveness of methane mitigation measures including technologies and best practices, which were delivered by CATF’s Remote Sensing Policy Manager, UNEP’s Program Officer, and CATF’s Deputy Director for International Methane, respectively.

Speakers and participants at the Best Practices Workshop

In April 2023, as a follow up to the Best Practices Workshop, CATF hosted a one-day Methane Inventory Development and Mitigation Quantification Workshop in Accra. This marked CATF’s second major outing in Ghana. At this workshop, CATF’s Africa Policy Manager, Mohammed Dahiru Aminu, gave the opening remarks – highlighting information sources used for Ghana; and inventory development from the viewpoints of industry information, activity drivers, activity data and emission factors. CATF Deputy Director for International Methane, Alfredo Miranda-Gonzalez presented on mitigation policy, cataloguing of leading methane abatement policies, and possible scenarios if policies are not in place in the future. CATF Remote Sensing Policy Manager, Ioannis Binietoglou, discussed the need for continuous improvement of data such as improving facility and equipment count and taking note of national emission factors via equipment/devices and large emitters.  

The workshop provided participants – mainly government officials – with a hands-on experience with CATF’s Country Methane Abatement Tool (CoMAT), a software that allows governments to estimate the methane pollution from their country’s oil and gas sector and develop mitigation plans that can reduce their emissions. 

Participants were given hypothetical case studies to input into CoMAT to allow for their observation, analysis, and reporting with respect to emissions estimate, mitigation program, and abatement potential. At the end of the practical session, all groups were able to present their findings — which were followed by robust discussions about their observations.   

Speakers and participants at the Methane Inventory Development and Mitigation Quantification Workshop in Accra

We expect to continue collaborating with Ghanaian officials for a better facilitation of our methane emissions reduction advocacy in the country. Drawing from our experience in developing methane regulations in the oil and gas industry in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, and Nigeria, CATF looks forward to providing the necessary support in achieving Ghana’s first ever methane regulations.  

A study on waste methane 

In addition to methane generation from the oil and gas industry, a significant amount of methane is also generated from the decomposition of organic wastes – such as food and paper – in landfills. Methane from waste is usually produced when oxygen is not present in a landfill. The presence of moisture in a landfill normally increases methane production as it encourages bacterial decomposition. Given CATF’s ambition to broaden its engagements to encompass methane from other sources beyond the oil and gas industry, we commissioned a study entitled “Methane generation from municipal solid waste: A case study of Kumasi City, Ghana.” This study was led by Professor Francis Kemausuor of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi.  

It is important to understand current waste management practices as a way of developing a groundwork for innovative and sustainable solutions. Based on this aim, the objectives of the study are to:  

  • Describe existing waste collection and management systems and waste burning practices
  • Identify the locations of existing dumpsites and landfills and obtain information of how much refuse they receive
  • Describe the management practices at landfills and dumpsites
  • Characterize household waste
  • Identify principal waste generators and estimate volumes
  • Map out all the stakeholders involved in the waste sector and conduct interviews to better understand their current activities and concerns

The study objectives were achieved through quantitative and qualitative exploratory methods. These involved in-depth key informant interviews, focus group discussion, and observations. Research based questionnaires were administered to institutional structures in charge of policy formulation, implementation, and regulation of Kumasi’s waste management system. The operational governance units identified for the study as regards solid waste management included:  

  • Waste Management Department (WMD) of Kumasi Metropolitan Assembly (KMA)  
  • Environmental Health Departments/Units of the surrounding districts/municipalities  
  • Regional Office of the Environmental Protection Agency  

To have a first-hand experience of Kumasi’s waste sector, CATF staff and local expert consultant, Ishmael Amegah, travelled from Accra to Kumasi to join the waste study research team at KNUST for a visit of one of the city’s major landfills, and to meet officials of the operational governance units that were identified for the study.

CATF staff, local consultant, and the waste methane study team by a landfill in Kumasi

At Kumasi, we learned that to address the significant increase in waste generation, the city had established a compost and recycling plant to promote best practices. But our preliminary findings indicated that substantial challenges remain, especially concerning organic waste and methane management practices. To curb these challenges, our study proposed the following recommendations:  

  • Strengthen policy and regulatory frameworks for solid waste management, including enforcing regulations on waste segregation and recycling, and establishing incentives for waste reduction and recycling activities
  • Improve waste collection and transportation systems, including provision of adequate waste collection infrastructure, equipment, and services for all residents
  • Promote organic waste treatment technologies (e.g., composting, biorefinery and anaerobic digestion) through public-private partnerships, technical support, and financial incentives
  • Enhance public awareness and participation in waste management activities including waste generation, recycling, and composting through education and outreach campaigns
  • Foster collaboration and coordination amongst stakeholders (e.g., government agencies, private waste management companies, non-governmental organizations, and local communities) to ensure effective waste management policies and strategies
  • Fund waste management activities and promote research in waste management to foster high-level sustainability

As CATF develops its work on waste methane in Ghana and other countries in the West African region, we understand that the implementation of these recommendations would require strong political will, institutional capacity, stakeholder participation, financial instruments, and technical expertise. As a city, Kumasi can benefit from the best practices and experiences from other cities that have adopted similar approaches to solid waste management. The city can also enhance its environmental quality, public health, social equity, economic development, and climate resilience by improving its solid waste management practices. 

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