Distribution of methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the natural gas supply chain – SGRI 2016 abstract

Abstracts for Sustainable Gas Research & Innovation 2016

SESSION: SGI – Energy Analysis and Policy –Tuesday 27th September (14.15 – 15:05)

PaulTitle: Distribution of methane and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the natural gas supply chain

Author: Dr Paul Balcombe


There has been growing concern that fugitive and vented emissions from the natural gas supply chain is larger and more variable than previously thought. The first White Paper by the Sustainable Gas Institute revealed an extremely large range of emissions across different supply chain stages, regions, geologies, processes and operational practises, not to mention estimation methodologies. However, there remains a lack of understanding about why we see such variation and the factors affecting these emissions. In order to minimise supply chain emissions, a greater understanding of the characterisation and distribution of emissions across the range is required.

In this study, a large set of emissions data aggregated from the White Paper is analysed to define the distribution of methane and CO2 emissions from each stage of the supply chain. The factors affecting emissions are defined and quantified, including reservoir type, size and supply chain route. This inventory was then used to perform a Monte Carlo simulation to determine the overall distribution of methane and CO2 emissions for various supply chain scenarios.

This probabilistic assessment gives a clear insight into the variation of emissions and the causes of these variations and the study identifies where there is greatest potential to reduce supply chain emissions. This greater understanding of natural gas emissions is vital in informing policy decisions as the drive to decarbonise energy systems gathers pace and gas production is set to increase: but what are the likely impacts and how can we minimise these?


Paul moved to the Sustainable Gas Institute from Manchester, where he achieved a first class degree in Chemical Engineering, attained chartered engineer status from his time in industry and then completed his PhD in 2014.

Paul’s research interests involve the environmental, economic and technical assessments of energy industry to answer a number of key questions: how can we decarbonise our energy use whilst maintaining living standards; what role should fossil fuels have in decarbonisation targets; and how can energy policy help us to do this most effectively?

Paul was the first author of our Institute’s first white paper, Methane & CO2 emissions from the natural gas supply chain.