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Policy Factsheet

Monitoring Methane Emissions: Addressing Climate Change

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Members of Congress should reintroduce and support the Methane Emissions Mitigation Research and Development Act, ensuring that it addresses three critical research needs:

  • Expand spectroscopic databases to support methane sensing
  • Improve measurement of fuel tracers (carbon isotopes, ethane)
  • Develop high efficiency detectors to support Lidar

Methane Emissions from Oil and Gas: Key Climate Change Contributor

Methane (CH4) is the second-most abundant anthropogenic greenhouse gas and significantly contributes to global warming.

2017 Global Methane Budget from Man-Made Sources

Chart: 30% Fuel production and use, 62% Agriculture and waste, 8% Biomass and biofuel burning

Source: The Global Methane Budget 2000-2017, by Marielle Saunois et al, Earth System Science Data, DOI:10.5194/essd-12-1561-2020

100-Year Global Warming Potential

Source: M. Etminan et al., Geophysical Research Letters 43 (2016)

Although the challenge of reducing methane emissions can be daunting, the results from aerial monitoring show that with a technology and data-driven approach, operators can significantly reduce emissions while simultaneously reducing costs and improving operational efficiency.

— Pioneer Natural Resources (major U.S. oil and gas producer)

Opportunity For Impactful Action

Methane emissions from oil and gas production are localized, intermittent, and dominated by a relatively small number of super-emitters: less than 10% of sources of methane in oil and gas operations contribute more than half of the emissions in the sector.

Current Monitoring Capabilities Are Ineffective

  • Current methane monitoring systematically underestimates emissions by up to a factor of three.
  • There are no calibration standards that allow for comparison or aggregation of observations from different tools.
  • There is no national repository of methane emissions observations to enable future effective monitoring and verification of reduction targets.

A National Approach is Needed for Effective Methane Emissions Reduction

  • Decisive actions have both short- and long-term benefits, increasing efficiency of the oil and gas industry and mitigating climate change.
  • The ability to accurately measure and monitor methane emissions is critical for any strategy that addresses climate change, including the Global Methane Pledge launched at COP26 in 2021.

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