Methane Monitoring System Identifies 127 Plumes, Prompting Global Response

Methane Monitoring System Identifies 127 Plumes, Prompting Global Response

The UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Methane Alert and Response System (MARS) has informed governments about 127 methane plumes across four continents, with 1,500 plumes identified during its pilot phase, according to a report presented at the 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change on December 1, 2023.

Launched at COP27 last year by UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO), MARS is a pioneering global system that utilizes satellite data to monitor significant emission events, providing timely notifications to governments and companies capable of addressing them. Methane, the second-largest contributor to anthropogenic-induced global warming, is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The energy, agriculture, and waste sectors are the primary sources of methane, responsible for 30% of the Earth’s warming, with the energy sector offering the most potential for mitigation.

Rick Duke, United States Deputy Special Envoy for Climate, commended IMEO’s crucial role in compiling and disseminating data through the Methane Alert and Response System, emphasizing its impact on actionable decision-making.

IMEO, established at the G20 Leaders Summit in 2021, gathers methane emissions data from satellites via MARS and from industries through the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, in addition to incorporating scientific measurement studies.

The Oil & Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP 2.0) is UNEP’s flagship program, involving a coalition of companies committed to enhancing the accuracy and transparency of methane emissions data from the oil and gas sector. The report, titled “An Eye on Methane: The Road to Radical Transparency,” notes that 114 oil and gas companies joined OGMP 2.0 by the September 2023 cutoff, representing a significant increase from the 72 companies in 2021.

The report highlights the growth in OGMP 2.0 membership, reaching 92 companies in 2022, constituting 34% of global oil and gas production. Despite progress, this accounted for only 2% of total methane emissions from the industry. The study suggests that emissions from non-OGMP 2.0 members might be considerably higher, emphasizing the need for broader participation.

Under OGMP, the “Gold Standard” reporting is achieved when companies reconcile measurements at source (Level 4) and site (Level 5) levels for the majority of their assets. The UNEP indicates that 84 companies meet the Gold Standard criteria, signaling their commitment to credible reporting of methane emissions.

Sheila Aggarwal-Khan, Director of UNEP’s Industry and Economy Division, emphasized the active collaboration with scientific partners, governments, and industry to define a global standard for methane transparency in the oil and gas sector. The UNEP, through OGMP 2.0, continues to evolve standards and practices as new measurement and mitigation methods emerge.

IMEO has initiated 34 scientific studies globally, investigating the sources of methane emissions and mitigation strategies. This includes the first multiscale methane measurement scientific campaign in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, with a particular focus on under-reported flaring efficiency. IMEO collaborates with countries on baselining studies to benefit multi-sectoral industry stakeholders and governments. Additionally, it works with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to translate findings into policies and strategies, eventually contributing to Nationally Determined Contributions.