Skip to main content

Methane emissions dramatically underestimated in U.S., Canada

February 03, 2021

The Energy Mix:

Federal environmental agencies are underestimating methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells by 20% in the United States and 150% in Canada, according to a McGill University study published late last month in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, one of several in recent weeks that have pointed to a mounting crisis in releases of the climate-busting gas.

From oil and gas operations and abandoned wells in North America, to urban gas lines in Europe, to farms in China and coal mines everywhere, the reports point to unexpectedly high emissions of a greenhouse gas that is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the crucial, 20-year span when humanity will be scrambling to get climate change under control. 

In December, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) found that a loophole in carbon accounting guidance from the non-profit Carbon Disclosure Project had made it possible for European pipeliners, known as transmission system operators (TSOs), to “market themselves as low-carbon businesses and avoid reporting on the climate effects of the natural gas they transport.” The Cleveland-based institute profiled five TSOs it said were under-reporting their emissions “by a factor of at least 100”.

The gap in the rules “makes it much easier for TSOs to market themselves as leaders of the energy transition, aligned with European Union emission reduction targets,” said IEEFA energy finance analyst and report co-author Arjun Flora. “They are talking about net-zero targets while completely ignoring their largest source of emissions—end use of the fossil fuel gas they transport. By raising billions of Euros in ‘sustainable financing,’ they are diverting investor funds from more sustainable energy value chains.” 

[Mitchell Beer]

More: Canada and U.S. Drastically Underestimate Methane Emissions as Atmospheric Levels Rise

Join our newsletter

Keep up to date with all the latest from IEEFA