Study reveals scale of huge bursts of methane gas from oil and gas fields

Huge bursts of methane are being emitted from oil and gas fields, with this happening hundreds of times in just two years, according to a new study.

Researchers said they were the first to estimate how much of this potent greenhouse gas was involved in large leaks that can only be seen from space.

The global team of scientists found oil and gas facilities were releasing a significant amount of methane in sporadic bursts.

They analysed thousands of images from a European Space Agency satellite mission for the study published in the journal Science.

This revealed 1,200 ultra-emitters from oil and gas facilities. These were found to release more than 25 tonnes of methane per hour on a sporadic basis over most of the largest oil and gas basins across the world.

Removing these oil and gas-related events would be the same as getting rid of 20 million cars from the road, based on the 100-year global warming power of methane, according to Kayrros, a firm that uses satellite data and machine to monitor greenhouse gas emissions.

“Our study supplies a first systematic estimate of large methane leaks that can only be seen from space, showing how these detections relate to wider methane monitoring processes,” Alexandre d’Aspremont, study contributor and Kayrros co-founder, said.

“This is a giant step towards overcoming the current limitations of the methane reporting system which is critical to meeting COP26 commitments to slash methane.”

The lead scientist in the research, Thomas Lauvaux, told BBC News working out volumes of greenhouse gas emissions usually involved countries or companies giving their own estimates.

Getting data from space offered a “more rigorous approach” to working his out, he said.

“To our knowledge, this is the first worldwide study to estimate the amount of methane released into the atmosphere by maintenance operations and accidental releases,” the researcher from the French Laboratoire des Sciences du Climat et de l’Environnement said.

“Unreported ultraemitters explain in part the underestimation in official oil and gas reported emissions by countries as documented by previous studies.”

He added: “The atmospheric monitoring approach enabled by recent satellite missions provides a unique perspective on oil and gas activities, and the potential to mitigate these large releases of methane.”

The team of researchers also involved Carbon Mapper, a non-profit organisation that works to track emissions.

The International Energy Agency has previously estimated nearly one third of all methane emissions from human activity come from fossil fuel operations.

Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.