Reducing methane emissions is another way of reducing total greenhouse gas emissions. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. It has a shorter lifetime than CO2 in the atmosphere, but has an effect on global warming that is about 25 times worse than CO2 in a 100-year perspective, and about 86 times worse in a 20-year perspective. While gas, when burnt for power, has half the CO2 emissions of coal, leakages and release of gas at any point in the value chain reduce its climate benefits.
Minimising methane emissions is a prerequisite for including gas as a credible part of a future low carbon energy mix. Equinor has implemented methane reduction programmes as a part of our business, with special attention in Norway and the USA, where most of our operated production takes place.
Methane emissions occur mainly as a result of venting gas (for safety and other reasons) or due to leakages. These can occur from a wide variety of sources, making it challenging to accurately quantify emissions.
The methane intensity from Equinor’s up- and midstream oil and gas operations is very low (0.03 %). This is a result of the high focus on limiting methane emissions at offshore installations due to safety risk, zero routine flaring and the low gas leakage rate from subsea welded pipelines.
Equinor has carried out a study examining methane emissions for Norwegian natural gas delivered to customers in the UK and Germany. The findings show that the methane emissions are below 0.3% of the gas sold to the market. That is just half the average leakage rate for gas consumed in Europe – and far below the minimum threshold of 3.2% beyond which gas loses its greenhouse gas advantage, according to the report.
For our US onshore operated assets, Equinor uses US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculation methodologies and emissions factors to estimate methane emissions for our onshore operated assets, in accordance with federal requirements. Equinor is increasing efforts to track methane emissions, especially through detection programmes at operated assets like Eagle Ford and Bakken.
In 2017, Equinor extended its use of infrared cameras to its mid-stream facilities, leveraging experience gained in US onshore and Norwegian offshore assets. Equinor has also started using optical path laser spectroscopy to accelerate the detection and repair of methane leaks and verify the outcome of reduction measures at onshore facilities. These optical sensors are mounted on a drone which enables assessment of individual leaks from specific equipment types as well as total emissions from an entire facility.
Equinor was a founding partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) set up in 2014. We are also a part of the Oil and Gas Climate initiative and committed to the ambition to move towards near zero methane emissions. Within these initiatives we are working with expert partners to improve methane data collection, share best practice, carry out field studies, and select and deploy cost-effective methane management technologies.