Speaking at Gastech Conference in Barcelona, Maarten Wetselaar, Shell Integrated Gas & New Energies Director, explained why the global oil major has set a target to keep its methane emissions intensity, for both oil and gas, below 0.2 % by 2025. The long-term role of gas in the energy mix depends on good management of methane emissions, he noted, and beyond encouraging others and asking governments to help, Shell needs to continually reduce emissions itself.
To achieve this, Shell is going to do two things:
- First, it will continue to improve data on emissions, to fix the issue of uncertainty in measuring methane emissions. The industry needs to get a much more accurate understanding of how much it is emitting.
- Secondly, it will focus on emissions reduction itself with a range of initiatives, including efforts to detect and repair methane leaks in its operations, but also programmes to replace equipment with newer gear that reduces leaks.
Namely, to maintain this methane target, Shell is implementing programmes, including using infrared cameras to scan for methane emissions, deploying advanced technology to repair leaks, and replacing high-bleed pneumatically-operated controllers with low emission alternatives.
The target for methane – which has a higher impact on global warming than carbon dioxide when released into the atmosphere – will be measured against a baseline Shell leak rate, which is currently estimated to range from 0.01% to 0.8% across the company’s oil and gas assets.
According to Mr. Wetselaar, the industry is making progress in the use of gas, and its success in the future, in large part, depends on its environmental advantage over coal. According to IEA data, GHG emissions from natural gas are lower than coal in electricity generation up to a methane leakage rate of 3.5% when measured over 20 years, he explained.
In addition, IEA estimates that natural gas operations have an average methane leakage rate of 1.7%. According to the IEA, natural gas emits between 45% and 55% lower greenhouse gas emissions than coal. Leakage rates can be lower, so there is an opportunity for gas to expand this major environmental benefit, he stressed.
This means the industry needs to continue addressing methane emissions, which can diminish the relative greenhouse gas emissions benefits of natural gas. The long-term role of gas in the energy mix depends on good measurement, transparency on and management of methane emissions. Methane emissions must be reduced throughout the entire gas supply system.
That is why Shell formed a coalition of industry, and with organisations like the Environmental Defense Fund, UN Environment, leading universities and the World Bank to develop a set of methane guiding principles. Since natural gas consists mainly of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, its role in the transition to a low-carbon future will be influenced by the extent to which methane emissions are reduced.
In November last year, eight companies, including Shell, signed up to these principles. Since then, the coalition has encouraged a further eight companies to join the guiding principles.
The principles focus on ways to reduce emissions throughout the gas industry – from production to the final consumer. Moreover, the coalition is working on a set of policy principles to ensure cost-effective actions are taken across the industry against emissions.