Oil giant Shell is working to keep methane emissions intensity below 0.2% by 2025 across all of the oil and gas assets it operates. The move, announced on Monday, has been welcomed by the UN as a signal for the rest of the industry.
Commenting on Shell’s methane commitment, Maarten Wetselaar, Shell’s Integrated Gas & New Energies Director said the methane target complemented Shell’s ambition to cut the Net Carbon Footprint of its energy products by around half by 2050, announced in November 2017.”
He said: “It is a further demonstration of our continued focus on tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Such efforts are a critical part of Shell’s strategy to thrive during the global energy transition by providing more and cleaner energy.”
To maintain this methane target, Shell is implementing programs, 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 company said.
Shell has said it recognizes that there remains uncertainty in measuring methane emissions.
“This is an industry-wide issue, and we need to fix this fast,” said Wetselaar. “We must get a much more accurate understanding of how much we are emitting.”
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, Shell said.
Where does methane come from?
Shell on Monday shared an infographic, citing IEA data, according to which globally, around 60% of total methane emissions come from human activities. The remaining 40% of global methane emissions are naturally occurring, from natural seeps, wetlands, animals such as termites, and vegetation decay.
About 13% of total global methane emissions come from oil and gas related activities, split roughly equally. Methane
is emitted during the production, processing, transport, and incomplete combustion of oil and natural gas.
UN: Quick fix ahead of the long-term solution
Mark Radka, Head of UN Environment’s Energy and Climate Branch said: “Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it has a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere. That means reducing methane emissions brings immediate climate benefits, buying some time while we work out longer-term solutions. This commitment by Shell is encouraging in itself but also because of the signals it sends to the rest of the industry.”
The intensity baseline and target are presented as percentage figures, which represent the estimated amount of methane emissions for Shell’s operated gas and oil assets as a percentage of the amount of the total gas and oil marketed. The methane emissions include those from fugitives, venting and incomplete combustion, for example in flares and turbines.
Currently, methane emissions are calculated using a combination of standard emission factors (established emissions rates per throughput or per piece of equipment) and actual measurement. Increasingly, Shell sites are measuring emissions with infrared cameras and other detection equipment. By 2025, all Shell operated assets will have implemented robust quantification methodologies.