The gas wasted globally each year is worth $39 billion (more than the 2017 GDP of Bahrain) - at conservative prices.
257 billion m3
257 billion cubic metres of gas is wasted globally every year (enough to power almost 1 billion western homes).
84X worse than CO2
Methane is a greenhouse gas which is 84 times worse for the climate than CO2 over a 20-year time frame.
What is the methane challenge of natural gas?
Today, natural gas provides around 23% of the global total primary energy and it's on the increase. That’s in part because natural gas is widely viewed as a critical fuel to enable the decarbonisation of our global energy systems and, therefore, the delivery of the energy transition. Conventional estimations of the carbon intensity of natural gas put it is 50% lower than coal and 25% lower than liquid fossil liquid.
However, gas (which is mostly methane, or CH4) has a problem. The equivalent of 47% of the consumption of Europe is wasted each year through flaring, venting and leaking, making its advantage over coal much less clear. Yet, by fixing this waste globally each year, we could reduce emissions by over 7 billion tonnes of CO2e¹, halve the CO2e intensity of natural gas, bring an additional 257 BCM² to market, create revenues of up to $39 billion³ and enable markets to offer consumers cleaner, lower-methane gas products.
1 CO2-equivalent. Our calculations of the total CO2 emissions account both for CO2 emissions, but also those of methane, noting that methane is 84x more toxic to the environment over a 20-year timescale. 2 According to the IPCC. 3 BCM = Billion Cubic Metres. Data from the World Bank and IEA
Luckily, the technology exists today to solve most of these issues, often at no net cost, and the leading gas producers are now showing real commitment to address this challenge. Senior executives at one supermajor recently said publicly that "gas may not even be a transition fuel, let alone a destination fuel unless we solve the problem of methane emissions.”
Types of methane emissions in the natural gas system:
Gas is often consumed (to power facilities and operations) during the extraction of oil and gas. A better alternative could be to use renewables (e.g. solar or hydro energy) for “own operations”, so-called “scope 2” emissions,
Flaring is the deliberate burning of natural gas, and leads to large CO2 emissions. Since most flares deliver only partial combustion of gas, significant volumes of uncombusted methane are also emitted from flares.
Venting is the deliberate release of methane directly into the atmosphere.
Leaking is the accidental release of gas into the atmosphere, often related to sub-optimal maintenance.
In 2018 there were +10,000 flares globally, wasting 145 BCM of natural gas (according to the latest data published by The World Bank)
The chart below shows the top flaring countries (left figure) and a comparison of flaring with its principle driver, being oil production (right figure). The global average figure is 1.5 BCM of flared gas per year per million barrel of production per day.