Australian Fossil Fuels Giants Severely Underestimate Methane Leaks

Fugitive — or hidden — methane emissions in the country are likely underestimated by 80% for coal and 90% for oil and gas, a new report from IEEFA says.

(Bloomberg) — The “gross under-reporting” of methane leaks from Australia’s fossil fuel sector signals the urgent need for many large industrial facilities to double their rate of decarbonization, according to a new report.  Leaks of the potent greenhouse gas from oil and gas have likely been underreported by 90%, a report published Wednesday from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, or IEEFA, showed citing International Energy Agency’s estimates. The figure was 80% for coal. The discrepancy corresponds to roughly 28 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent of under-reported leaks and suggests major emitters will need to accelerate efforts to meet emissions reduction obligations this decade. 

“In order to stay within the newly introduced emissions caps, facilities would have to double their rate of decarbonisation and halve their emissions between 2023 and 2030,” Amandine Denis-Ryan, IEEFA Australia’s chief executive officer wrote in the report. “It is critical to correct these underestimates as soon as possible.”Read More:   A Cheap Fix to Global Warming Is Finally Gaining SupportAlthough methane is a relatively short-lived pollutant, it has a devastating impact on the climate because it has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period. The potent greenhouse gas is responsible for roughly a third of the Earth’s warming. Several countries, from the US to Turkmenistan, are getting more serious about slashing avoidable methane emissions as the rapidly rising temperatures force leaders to double down on solutions.For years, satellite observations of methane emissions in Australia have suggested that reporting mechanisms weren’t capturing the full scope of releases from the nation’s vast fossil fuel operations. That’s problematic because activity in some areas of the country is seen to be especially dirty. In Queensland’s Bowen Basin — a major coal hub — scientists have estimated the methane intensity per unit of coal production is 47% higher than the global average.

Read More: Cheapest Path for Big Methane Cuts Goes Through Australia’s Mines

The cheapest way to for Australia to significantly reduce its methane emissions are to reduce leaks from coal mines, according to an analysis last year from energy think tank Ember. The pits spew more than 1 million tons of methane each year, contributing nearly a quarter of the country’s emissions of the gas, Ember said in its analysis.

Australia was one of the last major developed economies to join the Global Methane Pledge — a US and EU-led initiative aiming to reduce emissions of the potent greenhouse gas 30% from 2020 levels by the end of this decade. “We need urgent action to improve methane emissions monitoring and reduction, to ensure Australia’s industry and households do not pay for the gross under-reporting of emissions,’’ Denis-Ryan said in the report.

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