Our Methane Research topics
Below are just some key issues being addressed through the Methane and Environment Programme (MEP):-
Methane and climate metrics
What is methane’s contribution to climate change and the environment? Methane is a very strong climate forcer, much more than carbon doxide, but is relatively short-lived in the atmosphere. A gas’s effect on climate change depends on its concentration, how long it stays in the atmosphere, how much heat it traps and how it interacts in the atmosphere.
There are numerous ways to examine the greenhouse impact and several different climate metrics are used. In addition to climate change, methane affects the creation of ground-level ozone which effects both human health and ecosystems.
The Sustainable Gas Institute MEP is conducting research into methane’s climate and environmental impact, as well as exploring which metrics and timescales are most appropriate.
Uncertainty in methane emissions estimates
The magnitude of emissions from the oil and gas sector remains disputed, and varies across regions but also varies according to the different estimation methods assumptions used. Estimates of methane venting and leaks from the natural gas supply chain have been the subject of much controversy, due to the uncertainties in methods, data quality and assumptions used.
Many studies have estimated how much methane is emitted, but a variety of methods and techniques have been used making it difficult to make direct comparisons.
We have been working with companies to help robustly assess different estimation methods and are using probabilistic techniques to quantify total uncertainties in estimates of fugitive emissions.
The aim is to assess what we currently know and establishing what we can do to reduce both the uncertainties and the emissions.
Methane emissions can occur at all stages of the supply chain. Emissions can be via vents, leaks and incomplete combustion and consequently there are a vast series of abatement options.
The programme analyses different supply chains to identify key hotspots in emissions, which may be a specific equipment type or even the appearance of super-emitters. These super-emitters are a small number of equipment or facilities which cause disproportionately large emissions. Detecting and managing super-emitters is an undeveloped area of research and offers potential for major reductions.
The MEP studies the environmental benefits and cost-effectiveness of implementing different emissions-reducing options and identifying a set of best technological option (BTO) scenarios for different regions and supply chains.
Filling the knowledge gaps
While much work has been done to identify and reduce methane emissions across industry, governments and academia, there are still large gaps in our knowledge in different regions, supply chain routes and processes.
The programme identifies these gaps and strives to provide evidence to fill them, by identifying key measurement requirements, or quantifying reductions through technology, technique or policy change.
The key roles of natural gas in lower carbon systems
Natural gas is a key fuel and feedstock for many uses relating to electricity, heat, transport and chemical production. As a fossil fuel, its unabated combustion must eventually diminish in a low carbon world, but there are a variety of potential innovative routes where it could play an important role in decarbonising systems. For example, natural gas could play a key role in low carbon hydrogen production, or blending with biogas.
We are assessing potential end-uses, technologies and decarbonisation options to determine the most important and effective roles of natural gas in future low-carbon energy systems. It is extremely important to assess not just the level of carbon dioxide reductions, but other environmental, economic and social impacts too so that we don’t replace one problem with an even larger one.