Limiting methane emissions in the energy sector

Methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas, can 'escape' into the atmosphere at several points of the energy (gas, oil, coal) value chain, from production sites or closed wells, through the different elements and installations of the transmission and distribution systems, to the point of consumption. While the main source of methane emissions is agriculture and natural habitats, it seems that the reduction of these emissions is most cost efficient in the energy sector. Methane emissions from the natural gas industry has been showing an important increase. As little as 3% leakage of methane along the chain can question the environmental benefits of gas vs coal in power generation. If the gas industry can demonstrate that effective action against fugitive emissions can be taken, and is their priority, does that provide enough reassurance that gas could play a role as a bridging fuel?

There are challenges though: there is no commonly agreed methodology to measure fugitive methane emissions in the energy sector; it is equally difficult to identify the source of such emissions (whether natural or energy related). Most energy companies are very aware of the problem and actively work on it; there are international initiatives to address the issue with Commission participation and there are different approaches out there aiming at measuring the size of the problem. In addition, the European Parliament is asking the Commission to develop a methane strategy covering all impacted sectors. DG Energy is ready to conduct a study to take stock of what is out there, what is already done and potential further steps we could take in this matter.

This session could serve as a brainstorming and an ideas exchange exercise with companies and NGOs alike on the issues, difficulties and potential directions policy makers could take in the energy sector to tackle the issue of methane emissions.