Large scale methane leaks from fossil fuel production and landfills exposed | Climate news



The sheer scale of methane leaks from fossil fuel production and landfills has been revealed by analysis carried out exclusively for Sky News.

About 1,300 “super-emitters” of the potent greenhouse gas have so far been identified by 2023 by monitoring firm Kayrros, which uses satellites to detect plumes of the gas.

It looks for non-natural sources of methane – primarily gas wells, pipelines, coal mines and landfills.

According to the data, the largest source of oil and gas was on the Cheleken Peninsula in Turkmenistan, where a leak from a facility is estimated to have peaked at 333 tonnes per hour in August.

At that rate, the hourly methane emissions were equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of a car driven about 38,000 miles.

Another leak, from a blown-out well in Kazakhstan, released between 21 and 56 tons of methane every hour for 153 days between June and November.

Coal is also an issue with a plant in Shanxi, China peaking at around 181 tonnes per hour last February.

And methane releases from buried waste at a landfill in Dhaka city in Bangladesh peaked at 822 tons per hour in April.

Antoine Rostand, co-founder of Kayrros, told Sky News that being able to observe emissions from space means there is nothing to hide.

“In the past we could measure the amount of methane in the atmosphere, but now we really know exactly where it’s coming from,” he said.

“Which country, which company, which assets emit methane into the atmosphere.”

Kayrro’s data shows that Turkmenistan had higher methane emissions than any other nation, followed by the United States, India, Russia and Pakistan.

Methane is the natural gas that is burned by boilers and other appliances in people’s homes.

But if it is released without being burned, often during maintenance on pipelines, it acts as a hot “bomb” in the atmosphere.

The gas causes 80 times more global warming than the same amount of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

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But it also represents a huge opportunity to bend the curve at rising temperatures. Because it only stays in the atmosphere for about a decade rather than several centuries, as in the case of carbon dioxide, turning off emissions would have a rapid impact.

The US has announced new rules for fossil fuels that require them to monitor and repair leaks, which should reduce methane emissions by 58 million tonnes between 2024 and 2038.

Rostand said the regulations are overdue.

“They have the technology, they have the money, they know exactly what to do,” he said.

“They lack almost any kind of overall regulation.

“Many players do a little, but some don’t. And this is where the regulation comes into play, because then it will put every single producer on an equal footing.”

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So far, 150 countries have signed the Global Methane Pledge, a commitment to reduce emissions by 30% by 2030.

If achieved, it could reduce the global average temperature by 0.2C and prevent 255,000 premature deaths from extreme heat, according to the pledge text.

The Kayrros data reveals no methane leaks in Europe, but Mr Rostand said Britain and other countries should put more pressure on suppliers of imported natural gas to stop releasing it into the atmosphere.

“It’s really a complete waste because companies can sell it,” he said.

“It has economic value, it’s easy to fix. It’s the elephant in the room, the low-hanging fruit.”


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