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.
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 the emissions. Hence, we are constantly working to improve methane emissions quantification, including reconciliation between source level quantification and measurements. Our emission data are third party verified and publicly available. Equinor has also 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.
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. The very low methane intensity from Equinor’s up- and midstream oil and gas operations 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.
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. We are already exceeding the US federal methane detection and mitigation requirements, and our efforts to reduce emissions continue unabated. Equinor supports effective federal EPA regulations on methane and aims to work with authorities to continuously improve and develop regulations.
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 created methane baseline in the US operated assets by using optical path laser spectroscopy. This new technology accelerates the detection and repair of methane leaks and validates the effectiveness of these reduction measures. 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.
We will continue to develop and implement technologies and procedures to detect and reduce methane emissions, support industry efforts to reduce methane emissions across the oil and gas value chain, increase the quality and transparency of reported data and support the development of sound methane policies and regulations.
Equinor was a founding partner of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) set up in 2014. In the US, we have joined the ONE Future and the API Environmental Partnership Program. We are also a part of the Methane Guiding Principles and the Oil and Gas Climate initiative (OGCI) and are 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.