Fossil fuel companies confirm plan to review collective methane targets for 2025 and onwards in light of new goal

The world’s leading oil and gas companies have pledged to bring their methane emissions to “near zero” by 2030, as they signed up to a new initiative that aims to rapidly reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas generated from fossil fuel production and transportation.

The Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions initiative was launched yesterday by the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative and has been backed by the CEOs of Aramco, BP, Chevron, CNPC, Eni, Equinor, ExxonMobil, Occidental, Petrobras, Repsol, Shell, and TotalEnergies.

The high-profile signatories have pledged to “strive to reach near zero methane emissions from our operated oil and gas assets by 2030”, by putting in place “all reasonable means” to avoid methane venting and flaring and repair detected leaks, while also reporting annually and transparently on their emissions.

“We recognise that eliminating methane emissions from the upstream oil and gas industry represents one of the best short-term opportunities for contributing to climate change mitigation and for advancing the goals of the Paris agreement,” said OGCI Chair, Bob Dudley. “The time has come for us to go further, and we believe that the oil and gas industry can and should lead this effort.”

The members of the new Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions initiative have also vowed to tap new technologies that can improve measurement and mitigation of methane as they emerge, and said they would “support the implementation of sound regulations to tackle methane emissions and encourage governments to include methane emissions reduction targets as part of their climate strategies”.

The oil and gas sector has come under mounting pressure to take action to reduce leaks of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 10 times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere and believed to be responsible for about 30 per cent of global warming to date. Global methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry stood at roughly 120 million tonnes in 2020, or roughly one third of all emissions of the gas produced by human activities, with most of these emissions due to leaks operators have failed to plug, according to the International Energy Agency.

Experts have long noted that tackling fugitive emissions of the greenhouse gas in the oil and gas sector is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to tackle climate change, given that any methane captured can be sold as fossil gas or used in the chemicals manufacturing process, generating extra revenue for companies. They have also pointed out that methane’s relatively short atmospheric lifetime means action taken now would have a far more rapid impact than action on carbon.

The financial case for plugging methane leaks has become even more compelling in recent months on the back of soaring global gas prices.

At the COP26 Climate Summit last autumn, more than 100 countries pledged to cut their methane emissions by 30 per cent on 2020 levels, largely by tackling emissions leaking from oil and gas wells, pipelines, and other fossil fuel infrastructure. The target is expected to backed by more stringent regulations in the EU and the US to further ramp up pressure on operators that fail to plug methane leaks.

The OCGI said it remained committed to reaching a previous target of delivering methane intensity of “well below 0.20 per cent by 2025” but would be reviewing its shared targets for 2025 and onwards to account for the new initiative and a climate strategy launched last September.

The OGCI claimed its members had already taken “significant action” to reduce methane emissions, with member companies reducing their aggregate absolute methane emissions by more than 30 per cent in the last five years.

However, the scheme is launched just a few weeks after the IEA noted that global methane emissions from the energy sector grew by just under five per cent last year, and warned that overall emissions could be as much as 70 per cent higher than the amount officially reported by national governments. The report also pointed out the commercial incentive to capture fugitive methane was greater than ever, in light of the international gas crisis.

OGCI executive committee chair Bjorn Otto Sverdrup stressed the oil and gas sector stood ready to work collaboratively to tackle the issue of methane emissions. “With this leadership initiative, we are calling for an all-in approach that treats methane emissions as seriously as the oil and gas industry already treats safety: we aim for zero and we will strive to do what is needed to get there,” he said. “We are encouraging all oil and gas companies to join us in this approach.” 

Want to find out more about how the net zero transition will impact your business? You can now sign up to attend the virtual Net Zero Finance Summit, which will take place live and interactive on Tuesday 29 March and will be available on demand for delegates after the event.

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