Strong action on methane will mean more EU energy security – EURACTIV

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By Flavia Sollazzo
Campaign in Brussels to raise awareness of methane emissions [Smartmedia Agency]

EU energy ministers need to be ambitious in their discussions on methane leaks on Monday (19 December), not only for the climate but also for EU energy security. Cutting down on losses could bring more than 80 billion cubic metres of gas to the EU market, writes Flavia Sollazzo.
Flavia Sollazzo is the senior director of EU Energy Transition at the Environmental Defense Fund Europe.
Russia’s war on Ukraine has sent costly shockwaves through global gas markets. It has also sped up efforts to transition to cleaner, safer, more reliable energy while setting off a scramble for new gas supplies to replace what once came from Russia. But how can that near-term need be met without undermining climate goals? 
One solution – identified by Environmental Defense Fund Europe, the International Energy Agency and others – lies in the vast resources of gas currently wasted by the oil and gas industry through flaring, leaks and other emissions.
New analysis by S&P Global estimates that by cutting these preventable losses in six key export regions, more than 80 billion cubic meters (bcm) of methane could be captured and profitably brought to market. That’s almost 60% of Europe’s pre-war annual imports from Russia.
The analysis lays out specific steps that could bring 40 bcm of new supply to market more than the total annual gas demand of France – in just two to three years, using export capacity either in place or under construction today. 
Capturing this gas would avert 760 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalent, an amount roughly the size of Germany’s total annual emissions.
Before the war in Ukraine, Europe imported about 155 bcm of natural gas per year from Russia, roughly 40% of its supply. Since then, Russian exports to Europe have been slashed by about three quarters while LNG imports from other parts of the world are up by about 50 bcm, driving energy price spikes that are hurting households and businesses alike.
The report is the first analysis to identify how much methane could be brought to market quickly, where it could come from, and what barriers would need to be addressed to make it happen.
It is powerful evidence that Europe can work with energy exporters to both massively reduce harmful methane emissions and strengthen energy security, easing the burden of multiple crises at the same time.
New methane rules in Europe, the US and Canada represent important policy steps. In the European Union, the draft Methane Regulation is moving through the legislative process, with EU energy ministers soon adopting their position.
Every producing and consuming country needs ambitious rules at home that tackle methane waste quickly and effectively, not watered-down rules that delay and undercut methane action.
The dilution of the EU’s measures, led by some in industry, would constitute a triple threat, sustaining Europe’s gas supply challenge, needlessly warming the environment, and costing economies potential revenue from the gas they can sell. 
Europe should lead by example at home, but it can also demand change abroad. The EU and other major importers like China, Japan and South Korea collectively represent 70% of globally traded gas.
They should embrace responsibility for upstream methane emissions embedded in the gas they buy and work with supplier nations to include methane intensity targets, mitigation project finance and the transfer of technical expertise in their supply agreements.
The Joint Declaration from Energy Importers and Exporters announced at last month’s climate talks could be a platform for these sorts of regional partnerships, but making it work requires broader participation from buyers in the European and Asia-Pacific markets, along with a seriousness of purpose equal to the challenge.
Likewise, the big “supermajor” oil companies have almost all made significant commitments around methane performance.
They should extend those commitments to their extensive networks of joint ventures and bring their technical capacity and capital, to bear the facilitation and financing of methane mitigation projects with their partners in the global south.
The energy crisis has revealed the fragility of a global system over-reliant on volatile fossil energy.
This not only drives the climate crisis, but also makes both rich and poor economies vulnerable to the whims of despots.
Ultimately, energy security, economic security and climate security go hand in hand. We have a chance to cut emissions of a potent climate pollutant while meeting a near-term need. We shouldn’t miss this opportunity.


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