Reducing methane emissions, a daily priority for the gas sector!

By ENGIE - 23 November 2021 - 14:47

Like CO2, methane is one of the gases responsible for global warming, and the fossil fuel that emits the least greenhouse gas. However, over half of current methane emissions are directly linked to human activities. One of these is the gas industry. Industry players, particularly in Western Europe, including ENGIE, are adopting good practices to limit gas supply emissions to approximately 0.2% of volumes transported. 


After water vapour and CO2, methane – the main component of natural gas, with chemical formula CH4 – is the third most important gas involved in greenhouse gas emissions. Though it has a relatively short lifespan in air – nine to twelve years – its environmental effects are undeniable. Experts consider that methane has 25 to 30 times (according to the calculation method used by the IPCC and even up to 85 times, depending on the calculation method) more impact on global warming than CO2! 
So it is no coincidence that around a hundred countries, including the USA and EU members, have committed to reducing their methane emissions by 30% by 2030 at COP26 in Glasgow.


Emissions of human origin

Over half of current methane emissions are directly linked to human activities (anthropogenic emissions). Although agriculture and waste are the main source, accounting for 60%, a further 30% of methane emissions come from the exploitation and transport of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas), with the proportion from gas infrastructure being very low. 
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the oil and gas sector emitted nearly 70 Mt of methane in 2020, representing around 5% of global energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. The IEA also says that nearly 60% of these emissions come from leaks in the gas supply (of which 40% come from oil production).

origins of methane emissions

The oil and gas industry is responsible for less than 9% of all global methane emissions (biogenic and anthropogenic).


Commitments from gas operators

Fully aware of the problem and its importance, all gas infrastructure operators are taking concrete actions to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and to limit the environmental impact of their activities more globally. In November 2020, GRTgaz, GRDF, Storengy, Elengy and Teréga joined the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) 2.0. They are targeting global reductions of 45% in methane emissions from infrastructure between 2016 and 2025.

The goal of this global approach is to achieve an initial emissions reduction target of 45% by 2025, increasing to 60-75% by 2030, compared with 2016. 


Reducing methane leaks: ENGIE in action

Our Group is taking concrete action to optimise gas exploitation and transport and limit the risks of methane leaks as far as possible. Much has been already done to reduce leaks since 2016: methane emissions from the main gas infrastructure in France have fallen by 15%. How has this been achieved?

GRTgaz cut its methane emissions by 67% between 2016 and 2020 through its investment and equipment modernisation policy: replacing gas compressors with electric models, using “Gas Booster” mobile recompression systems for maintenance operations.

Meanwhile, GRDF is continuing its ambitious project to renew pipes in the distribution network, and has set up a valve maintenance plan to limit leaks if incidents occur.

Storengy has launched an emissions reduction and energy optimisation programme at its installations. 


Methane emission levels along the gas supply chain:

  • fugitive emissions: these are low-level leaks resulting from permeable pipelines or equipment such as valves, seals and pneumatic devices.
  • emissions from gas venting: these involves gas discharges that may be planned, during a maintenance operation, for example, or unplanned, in the case of a fault relating to an external activity independent of the gas company.
  • emissions from incomplete combustion: these may occur in engines or gas turbines, flares or combustion installations.