How Frequently Should Methane Emissions Be Monitored?
May 25 2021
Although carbon dioxide (CO2) is by far the biggest contributor to global warming, the impact of methane emissions upon our environment should not be underestimated. That’s because although methane does not persist in our atmosphere for as long as carbon, it’s much more potent in the short-term. In fact, it’s 28 times more effective at retaining heat over a 100-year period and a whopping 84 times more potent over a 20-year period.
As a result, it’s highly important that power plants, large-scale factories and other industrial facilities regulate their methane emissions. The first step towards doing so is quantifying the problem in its entirety, which is why methane monitoring is a must in any industry. But how frequently should methane emissions be monitored, and how important is it to standardise the legislation surrounding those emissions around the world?
Satellite technology for super-emitters
One of the major technologies involved in monitoring methane emissions is the deployment of satellites, which are capable of keeping track on the activity of super-emitters and relaying that information back to Earth on a near-real-time basis. This type of emissions monitoring is virtually continual and provides stakeholders and asset owners to stay up-to-date on their plant’s emissions around the clock and take action as and when it is required to limit their methane footprint.
A recent trial run of this type of hardware found that there were approximately 100 sources of high-volume methane leakages around the globe at any one time. These were mostly concentrated in areas of fossil fuel extraction and processing and other major industrial hotspots.
While overarching data like that provided by satellite technology is important for gaining a comprehensive view of the global methane situation, smaller leak detection and repair (LDAR) campaigns are also invaluable in preventing fugitive emissions. Because these are regarded as the single biggest source of methane in the atmosphere, gaining a handle on them is imperative in slashing the footprint of this damaging greenhouse gas.
Indeed, the International Energy Agency in the US believes that the oil and gas sector can dramatically reduce its methane emissions by as much as three-quarters using readily available technologies, with up to 70% of that achieved without any net cost. As such, these LDAR campaigns – implemented on a widescale and near-continuous basis – could be instrumental in monitoring and reducing methane emissions across the globe.
The EU is currently in the process of revising the legislation surrounding methane monitoring within the bloc. This has taken the form of two public consultation periods, during which industry stakeholders, businesses, NGOs and private citizens were invited to share their views and their feedback with those drafting the regulations on the possible methodologies and technologies that should be deployed. These included innovative forms of monitoring, including:
- optical gas imaging (OGI)
- flame ionisation detectors
- ultrasonic detectors
- fixed detectors
- soap spray/soap bubble screening
- high flow samplers
- mass flow meters
- laser detectors
- catalytic bead sensors
- semiconductor detectors
- electrochemical detectors
- cavity ring down spectroscopy
- radial plume mapping
- mobile gas chromatography
- tracer gas release
- mobile ground labs
- unmanned ariel vehicles
- manned aircraft
The second feedback window closed at the beginning of this month and the Commission are now assimilating the suggestions that it garnered into their draft proposals, which are expected to be published in the fourth quarter of this year. Achieving standardised legislation across the bloc will be crucial in ensuring that all member states are pulling in the same direction, while lawmakers will also look to existing regulations in place like the USA to further inform their thinking on the subject.
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