Blog posts

How big a setback is the Nord Stream gas leak for climate change goals?

The news that the Nord Stream gas pipelines have stopped leaking is a relief to all of us involved in curbing emissions from methane, but the consequences of such a massive gas leak are still of huge concern. In her latest blog, the Sustainable Gas Institute’s Dr Jasmin Cooper examines how big an effect the alleged sabotage of the pipelines might have on climate change goals.

The Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines are two large subsea pipelines which connect Russia to Germany. The pipelines are the primary source of Russian gas exports to Germany.  Until the Russian invasion of the Ukraine in February they transported up to 55 billion cubic meters of gas per year, accounting for most of Germany’s gas imports. On September 26th 2022 two small tremors were detected by the Geological Survey of Denmark. Whilst there was no active flow through the pipelines by this point, they were still full of gas. The tremors are believed to have been caused by deliberate explosions – alleged sabotage that has resulted in four major methane leaks.

The leaks have caused concerns around the security of energy infrastructure as well as the security of energy supplies globally. After the announcement of the first leak in the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, gas prices across Europe jumped – having been falling since a previous peak in August. The leaks also raised energy security concerns in Europe as the continent heads into winter. However, Germany secured two floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in August of this year and in mid-September was in talks with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to secure LNG deliveries. In August of this year, the mainland EU member states agreed to a plan to cut gas use by 15%3, so the damage caused to the Nord Stream pipelines may not impact gas supply so much as the rise in gas prices.

While there is still a lot of uncertainty around the leak; including the cause, the extent of the damage to the pipeline and how much natural gas has leaked out – this incident has the potential to be one of the biggest climate disasters so far in the 21st century. Subsea pipeline leaks are unusual so there are no past examples to directly compare to.

Deep Water Horizon was a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico which exploded in April 2010 resulting in huge damage to the marine environment from oil. The Nord Stream leaks are natural gas, so the environmental impacts will be to climate change and global warming rather than a direct impact on the marine environment and wildlife. Our only comparable large gas leaks are the Aliso Canyon gas leak, which is estimated to have emitted 97,100 tonnes4 of methane between October 23rd 2015 and February 18th 2016 and the Raspadskya coal mine leak, which was found to be emitting nearly 90 tonnes of methane per hour5 earlier this year  – and could emit 764,000 tonnes of methane by the end of 2022. .

The Nord Stream pipelines while not actively transporting gas, did contain 778 million cubic meters of natural gas. This would be 360,000 to 460,000 tonnes of methane, which in CO2 equivalence is 11 million to 14 million tonnes of CO2eqb. In the context of total global methane emissions, between 2008 to 2017 total global emissions were 576 Tg CH4 per year (1 Tg = 1,000,000 tonnes), with 80 Tg CH4 per year from the oil and gas sector. So, the amount of gas stored is equal to less than 0.1% of total global methane emissions, or 0.5-0.6% of annual oil and gas methane emissions. While this may seem like a small percentage, they are similar to the methane emissions of Denmark, Ghana or Yemen in 2021. That volume of gas has an economic value – based on prices on 05 October 2022 – of €1.4 billion and is approximately 5 days’ worth of supply to Germany based on Nord Stream transport when it was operational.  So from a climate, social and economic perspective, this is a catastrophic loss.

How much of the methane stored in the two pipelines will be emitted is yet to be determined. From the amount of gas stored and the images of the leak, it is evident the leak will be a big blow to ambitions to meet climate change targets. The Global Methane Pledge – launched in November 2021 – has seen over 120 countries pledge to cut their methane emissions by 30% (relative to 2020 levels) by 2030. Since then, many have launched new regulations on how their methane emissions can be slashed. The Nord Stream leaks will likely negate much of the progress made so far.

assuming natural gas is 70 to 90% methane and methane density of 0.7 kg per cubic meter
assuming GWP100 of 30 TFF
assuming gas price €174.76 per MWh; 36 PJ per 1 bcm of natural gas

How successful is the UK’s Net Zero strategy in the biowaste sector?

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the waste sector are primarily composed of methane (CH4) released from landfills. Biodegradable wastes such as food, garden waste, manure, paper and cardboard emit methane during anaerobic decomposition in landfills. In our latest blog, SGI emissions scientist Dr Semra Bakkaloglu explains some of the key findings from her newly published paper into emissions of CH4 from biowaste.

We know that CH4 is around 28 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period (IPCC 2021). So, reducing CH4 emissions – from all sources – is critical to keeping global median temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius. In the UK, the waste sector is the second largest CH4 emitter after agriculture, so waste sector emissions deserve significant attention if we are to achieve the UK’s net zero targets.

The UK biodegradable waste strategy aims to divert progressively more waste from landfills into anaerobic digestion or composting facilities for recycling. Recent studies (Gua et al. 2020, Bakkaloglu et al. 2022a, Cusworth et al. 2020) indicate that anaerobic digesters and composting facilities can be a significant source of CH4 emissions, and our latest study aims to evaluate the UK’s biowaste strategy to better understand future CH4 emissions.

We use the term biowaste in this study to cover food and garden waste, because the broader term – biodegradable – encompasses a wider variety of wastes such as manure, sewage sludge, paper, cardboard and more. The objectives for our research were to compare the environmental impacts of biowaste treatment in the UK and to assess the effect of CH4 emissions. We considered four different waste treatment methods anaerobic digestion, composting, incineration, and landfill), as well as seven different scenarios for waste in various ratios treated using current and future waste management technologies. Full details of those scenarios are explained in full paper.

The four biowaste treatment methods assessed: anaerobic digestion; in-vessel composting; landfill; incineration with energy recovery. The dashed line indicates the system boundary and blue text indicates recovered resources.

In our latest study, we combined mobile CH4 emissions data for anaerobic digesters (AD) – rather than relying on the default emission factors for life cycle assessment (LCA). Approximately 19% of biowaste in the UK is currently landfilled, while 38% is incinerated. Of the remaining 53%, the waste strategy set a target for AD of 15% in 2020.  It is reasonable to assume that 15% of biowaste is sent to AD and the remaining 28% is sent to the composting facility. Combining the mobile methane emissions from AD and composting facilities, we can estimate that current annual UK average methane emissions are approximately 58.2 kilotonnes.

If we sent 90% of biowaste to AD and 1% to landfills as a strategy for the reducing landfilled biowaste by 2050, annual emissions would decrease to 30.3 kilotonnes. Therefore, sending more biowaste to AD can reduce emissions, but if we want to achieve net zero emissions from the waste sector, remaining emissions must be offset. Therefore, we recommend that future UK waste management policies should also focus on eliminating fugitive emissions from treatment technologies, especially AD, in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.

Why shale gas is not the right answer for the UK’s short-term energy needs

"Hydraulic Fracking" by phxlaw1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Hydraulic fracturing in Colorado

On September 22nd the UK Government announced the official lifting of the moratorium on fracking for shale gas. This was a ban put in place in 2019 after much opposition from community groups and environmentalists, as well as a report by the Oil and Gas Authority.

The Sustainable Gas Institute’s Dr Jasmin Cooper began her research career investigating shale gas and shares her expert perspective on why this policy U-turn could be a red-herring for the UKs energy strategy.

Shale gas is natural gas that is produced from shale formations. It has the same composition and chemical properties as the natural gas we’re all familiar with, but the key difference is in the rock the gas is extracted from. In conventional gas reserves, like those in the North Sea and Qatar, natural gas is extracted from a porous rock such as sandstone. Being porous, there are channels the gas can travel through which makes extraction relatively straightforward. Shale is not porous, so the natural gas is held in pockets which are not connected. Therefore, to make the gas extractable, fractures must be artificially created to connect the pockets and provide a pathway for extraction. The process, called hydraulic fracturing, has become more commonly known as ‘fracking’.

Hydraulic fracturing is when a mixture of water, sand and chemicals (including antibacterial agents and chemicals which make the solution more viscous) is injected into rock under high pressure.  Large quantities of the solution are needed along with energy to inject it at the pressures required.

The 2019 Conservative Party manifesto pledged the moratorium would not be lifted unless hydraulic fracturing could be proven to be safe scientifically – in regard to earthquakes caused by hydraulic fracturing. But since then, there has been little scientific evidence to prove it is. The British Geological Survey (BGS) published a report on September 22nd 2022 which found that more work is needed to understand the risk of earthquakes, as well as how to manage those risks.

Hydraulic fracturing has been carried out on a large scale in the USA, where it led to a significant increase in natural gas production and is credited with transforming their gas market.

Understandably, the transformation in energy security and the jobs a shale gas industry could create are put forward as the main arguments for developing it in the UK. The energy crisis in Europe as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict  – with gas prices climbing to a record high as mainland Europe shifts away from its dependence on Russian gas – is another driver of the Government’s decision to lift the ban- with the intention of boosting domestic production and lessening the rise in energy costs.

But the UK is quite different to the USA, in the geology, extent of our reserves and onshore infrastructure to manage any gas extracted. As of September 2022 there are no commercially operating shale gas wells in the UK, and just two exploration wells, both owned and operated by Cuadrilla.

It takes time to determine whether a shale gas well will produce marketable quantities of gas, and many tests are needed.  Surveying the geology of the site, studying core samples for the presence of gas, as well as hydraulic fracturing tests so see how much gas can be liberated – these all take time.

Given the minimal shale gas activity in the UK since 2010  – when the first UK shale gas exploration well was drilled – it is highly unlikely the industry could grow in size and scale at the rate required to have the desired impact on energy supply and security.  It’s also questionable whether shale gas could have an impact on energy prices. The UK’s oil and gas industry is largely in the North Sea. Unlike the USA there is little onshore supply chain infrastructure. Significant investment into new infrastructure to process shale gas to pump it into the UK’s gas grid will be needed. These, in addition to the costs of drilling and hydraulic fracturing could make shale gas far less cost competitive than the Government are suggesting.

Overall, it is unlikely the lifting of the moratorium will have an impact the UK’s energy security and prices. The small scale and limited activity of the industry mean there is a long way to go before the industry could reach commercial scale productivity. The strong social and environmental opposition would likely also slow down any progress in developing a shale gas industry. All in all, shale gas is not going to be an answer to the UK’s energy crisis and other avenues would be better to explore.

Biogas and biomethane emissions – a quick win for decarbonising future energy systems?

In our latest blog, Dr Semra Bakkaloglu reflects on our newly published research into biogas and biomethane emissions.

Over 100 years, methane has 27.2 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. So when it comes to climate change, it’s pretty potent stuff. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing, which makes it a quick-win target in the drive to decarbonise our global energy system.

It’s no coincidence that over 100 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge at COP26 in Glasgow. The pledge is a commitment to reduce methane emissions by 30% (from 2020 levels) by 2030. But a 30% reduction is ambitious, not to mention a complete reversal of the current trajectory of increasing methane emissions. Achieving that will require a combination of measures, which include reducing emissions from the existing supply chain whilst also reducing reliance on natural gas as a fuel by switching to cleaner energy alternatives, such as electrification or hydrogen.

But those new energy alternatives are at wildly different stages of technological readiness and require major infrastructure changes and investment. They are unlikely to happen overnight – and many are unlikely to become mainstream within the next 8 years.

One sector that is expected to grow and contribute to decarbonisation in that transition period is biogas and biomethane – a mixture of gases (mostly methane (CH4 and carbon dioxide (CO2)) produced from biodegradable materials. It’s a technology with a lot of factors in its favour: the volume of organic waste – known as feedstock – generated by modern societies is increasing, it provides a beneficial alternative disposal method for that waste, and conversion of energy from waste to biogas can begin to replace fossil fuel gas – which in turn reduces overall greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Ultimately it contributes to meeting those government commitments.

But biogas and biomethane production can also emit methane and it’s an area that’s been lacking in research. No study has assessed methane emissions from the biogas and biomethane supply chain – until now.

For our recent study, we synthesised methane emissions from the biogas and biomethane supply chains by breaking down stages and identifying key elements from direct measurements studies. We used a statistical model Monte Carlo approach to estimate aggregate methane emissions with uncertainty assessment, which can account for up to 343 g CO2-eq. We observed that biogas and biomethane supply chains exhibit similar emission characteristics to oil and natural gas with super-emitters present at all stages. In our study, 62% of the emissions come from just 5% of the point sources – these super-emitters waste a disproportionately large amount of methane

“..62% of the emissions come from just 5% of the point sources – these super-emitters waste a disproportionately large amount of methane.”

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) inventory, (the only other benchmark data currently available) estimated total methane emissions from bioenergy to be 9.1 Tg in 2021.

Our study, which only looked at one aspect of bioenergy (biomethane), discovered that methane emissions are more likely to be in the range of 6.4 – 7.8 Tg per year (95th percentile), but the average methane emissions are around 2.8 Tg according to the IEA’s global biogas and biomethane generation rate 1.47 EJ in 2018. If biogas and biomethane production are expanded to the same scale as the oil and natural gas industries and no action is taken, they could emit almost 4 times as much methane as oil and gas supply chains (82.5 Tg in 2021). At present, our results indicate they are high – higher even than natural gas, which is clearly a worry.

Considering the latest IPCC-AR6-WG3 climate change mitigation scenarios that achieve the Paris Agreement 1.5°C temperature rise mitigation target with low or no overshoot, we can see that biogas and methane could have up to 28 EJ of production by 2050. Using our mean emissions rate (52.3 g CO2-eq per MJHHV) from this study, this would result in 53.8 Tg methane emissions. This drives home the point that it is extremely important to reduce biogas and biomethane emissions for these energy sources to play a constructive role in our future energy system.

Finding and removing these large emitters is a critical step toward significantly reducing overall emissions from biomethane and natural gas supply chains. It’s not just about controlling greenhouse gases either. There’s a significant economic argument for addressing emissions – all that lost gas has a commercial value.

According to the European Biogas Association (EBA), biomethane can be produced for as little as €55 per MWh, while natural gas costs around €80 per MWh. When our findings are combined with the cost of biomethane, we can calculate that emitting 2.8 Tg of methane per year in average (based on the IEA’s global biomethane and biogas generation rate for 2018) can result in an average a global economic loss of 2.4 billion euros in average.

“… emitting 2.8 Tg of methane per year can result in a global economic loss of €2.4billion in average.”

Through improved design, detection, measurement, and repair techniques, much of the observed emissions can be avoided. If we focus on super-emitters, there are some potential quick wins too. We found that the digestate stage and upgrading units need the most attention in this regard. There’s a lot of overlap with oil and natural gas supply chains too – preventing gas venting, reducing flaring activities and designing a closed unit with a vapour recovery system can all contribute to reducing emissions.

Additionally, we need better regulations, continuous emission measurements, and close collaboration with biogas plant operators in order to address methane emissions and meet the Paris Agreement temperature target.

We know what we need to do to tackle those emissions; the important thing is to get started right away. Biomethane is an important renewable energy source, but it could be even better! Combating biomethane emissions is not only significant for meeting Paris Agreement’s target but also boosting the global economy.

Hydrogen and other short lived climate pollutants – is the time horizon important?

 

Dr Jasmin Cooper, Research Associate here at Imperial’s Sustainable Gas Institute, shares the work being done to model the potential global warming impacts of H2 emissions in possible future supply chains.


Short lived climate pollutants are greenhouse gases which stay in the atmosphere for much less time than carbon dioxide (CO2). Despite this, they are much more powerful than CO2 and can trap as much heat as thousands of kilograms of CO2 on a mass-to-mass basis (Table 1).

Table 1: Properties of different greenhouse gases (Derwent, 2018, Derwent et al., 2001, Derwent et al., 2018, Derwent et al., 2020, Field and Derwent, 2021, Forster et al., 2021, Myhre et al., 2013, IPCC, 2007).
Greenhouse gas GWP over 500-year time horizon GWP over 100-year time horizon GWP over 20-year time horizon Lifetime in the atmosphere
Carbon dioxide 1 1 1 Hundreds of years
Methane 7.6 29.8±11 82.5±25.8 12 years
Black carbon 900±800 3,200 (+300/-2,930) A few weeks
Hydrofluorocarbonsa 435 1,526±577 4,144±1,160 15 years
Hydrogen 4.3 to 10 Four to seven years
afor the hydrofluorocarbon HFC-134a.

In recent years methane (CH4) has emerged as the most important short lived climate pollutant with the IPCC’s AR6 report finding that emissions of it must be cut for 1.5°C or 2°C temperature targets to be met (IPCC, 2021, McGrath, 2021). This is because it is, at present, the second most important greenhouse gas, being responsible for around 30% of global warming to date (McPhie, 2021). It is also the second most emitted greenhouse gas e.g. in 2019 the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions were 80% CO2, 12% CH4, 5% nitrous oxide and 3% fluorinated gases (BEIS, 2021). As energy systems move away from fossil fuels, hydrogen (H2) could replace natural gas in areas that are difficult to decarbonise through electrification, such as heavy industry and heat.

H2 is a greenhouse gas, but unlike CH4 it is an indirect greenhouse gas. It does not absorb and trap heat but interferes with other (direct) greenhouse gases by enhancing their warming potential (Derwent, 2018). Therefore, in a world where H2 is used in a way akin to natural gas is now, there is the potential for H2 to be emitted into the atmosphere and contribute towards global warming. While there is limited literature available which estimates the impacts of it in the atmosphere, some as-yet to be peer reviewed research suggests short-term forcing from H2 could be higher than that of methane.

Here at the SGI, we have been modelling the potential global warming impacts of H2 emissions in possible future supply chains. When a 100-year time horizon is considered, H2 will likely not impose extra burdens to meeting Paris Agreement goals. However, if shorter time horizons and other climate metrics are considered, the impacts of H2 could be greater, as short-lived climate pollutants exhibit the majority of their warming impacts in the first few years of being emitted. This is an area where more research is needed, as it is important to fully understand the climate impacts of H2 if it is to become a key energy source.

Figure 1: Temperature response curve of various greenhouse gases (Myhre et al., 2013).

Whilst short lived climate pollutants are important, CO2 is still the most important greenhouse gas because its atmospheric lifetime is long (hundreds of years), and its warming effect is stable (Figure 1). Therefore, when comparing greenhouse gases and creating strategies to tackle global warming, it is important that attention not be drawn away from CO2 i.e. making large cuts to methane emission cannot be used as an excuse to slow down rates of decarbonisation. While short lived climate pollutants are important in the fight against climate change, caution should be used when pitting greenhouse gases against one another based on their GWP, especially GWP over 100-year horizons.

This could lead to unintended consequences either side. For example, a shift away from the importance of CO2 resulting in decarbonisation rates slowing down, or non-CO2 greenhouse gases not being given enough attention and consequentially little action being taken to mitigate emissions.

Overall, the time-horizon considered when comparing greenhouse gases to other another is important but what is more important is the quantity of greenhouse gases emitted. GWP is a useful metric to promote the importance of emissions abatement of non-CO2 greenhouse gases, but its importance becomes less pronounced when emissions are vastly reduced.


References 

BEIS. 2021. 2019 UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Figures London, UK; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Available:’ https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/957887/2019_Final_greenhouse_gas_emissions_statistical_release.pdf

Derwent, R. 2018. Hydrogen for heating: atmospheric impacts – a literature review London, UK; Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Available:’ https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/atmospheric-impacts-of-hydrogen-literature-review

Derwent, R. G., Collins, W. J., Johnson, C. E. & Stevenson, D. S. 2001. Transient Behaviour of Tropospheric Ozone Precursors in a Global 3-D CTM and Their Indirect Greenhouse Effects. Climatic Change, 49, 463-487. 10.1023/A:1010648913655

Derwent, R. G., Parrish, D. D., Galbally, I. E., Stevenson, D. S., Doherty, R. M., Naik, V. & Young, P. J. 2018. Uncertainties in models of tropospheric ozone based on Monte Carlo analysis: Tropospheric ozone burdens, atmospheric lifetimes and surface distributions. Atmospheric Environment, 180, 93-102.

Derwent, R. G., Stevenson, D. S., Utembe, S. R., Jenkin, M. E., Khan, A. H. & Shallcross, D. E. 2020. Global modelling studies of hydrogen and its isotopomers using STOCHEM-CRI: Likely radiative forcing consequences of a future hydrogen economy. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 45, 9211-9221. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhydene.2020.01.125

Field, R. & Derwent, R. 2021. Global warming consequences of replacing natural gas with hydrogen in the domestic energy sectors of future low-carbon economies in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

Forster, P., Storelvmo, T., Armour, K., Collins, W., Dufresne, J. L., Frame, D., Lunt, D. J., Mauritsen, T., Palmer, M. D., Watanabe, M., Wild, M. & Zhang, H. 2021. The Earth’s Energy Budget, Climate Feedbacks, and Climate Sensitivity. In: Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Cambridge, UK and New York, USA; Cambridge University Press. Available:’ https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/downloads/report/IPCC_AR6_WGI_Full_Report.pdf

IPCC. 2007. Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, UK and New York, USA; Cambridge University Press. Available:’ https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/05/ar4_wg1_full_report-1.pdf

IPCC. 2021. AR6 Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Geneva, CH; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Available:’ https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg1/

McGrath, M. 2021. Climate change: Five things we have learned from the IPCC report. BBC News.

McPhie, T. 2021. International Methane Emissions Observatory launched to boost action on powerful climate-warming gas [Press Release]. Brussels, BE. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/IP_21_5636.

Myhre, G., Shindell, D., Bréon, F. M., Collins, W., Fuglestvedt, J., Huang, J., Koch, D., Lamarque, J. F., Lee, D., Mendoza, B., Nakajima, T., Robock, A., Stephens, G., Takemura, T. & Zhang, H. 2013. Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forc- ing. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, UK and New York, USA; Cambridge University Press. Available:’ https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WG1AR5_Chapter08_FINAL.pdf

BOOK REVIEW: The New Map, by Daniel Yergin

By Pooya Hoseinpoori, Research Assistant, SGI

The global energy landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade. Three macro trends have reshaped the energy market and the global energy map over the past decade: the shale boom in the US, the growing role of renewable energy, and the rise of climate policies and government funding. Daniel Yergin, a veteran energy analyst, explores the new energy maps emerging from these changes in his latest book, “The New Map, Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations”. The global energy map has changed significantly since Mr Yergin published “The Quest” in 2011. In the New MAP, he updates and expands his analysis of technological advances, energy and geopolitical changes and presents a compelling narrative of developments that have disrupted the energy world over the past decade.

The New Map opens with the new US map and the shale revolution, which raised the supply and lowered the price of oil and gas, and reshaped traditional oil and gas relations and geopolitics by changing the US’s position on the global energy market. Next is Russia’s map shaped by geopolitical competition and conflicts over un­resolved borders from the collapse of the Soviet Union as well as a pivot to the east strategy and alliance with China. Then there is the new China map with its massive, ambitious international investment strategy known as the Belt and Road Initiative and its strategic plans for securing its commodity trade flows across the South China Sea. The Middle east’s map comes next in the book, formed by frontiers and rivalries and an economy highly dependent on oil and gas revenues. Last is the roadmap of the future and the climate maps discussing how the transition to a low carbon energy system might play out.

Like his previous books, the New MAP is full of detailed stories and interesting statistics about changes and events that formed these new maps: “By 2019 the unconventional revolution (shale boom) was supporting over 2.8 million jobs in the US”, “The US trade deficit in 2019 was 309 billion lower than it would have been if there was no shale revolution”, “China is building eight new airports a year”, “In 2019, $25 million cars were sold in China”, “Between 2006 and 2013 China’s gas consumption tripled” and also stories on Russia’s pivoting to east strategy and the new level of cooperation between China and Russia: “At the same time president Putin and president Xi were making pancakes together, their military joined in a large war game in the Far East”, “Chinese would provide the financing for a massive new $45 billion power of Siberia gas pipeline”, “Russia’s $25 billion investment on ESPO oil pipeline facilitated by $80 billion prepayment China made to Rosneft for deliveries over the next twenty five years”. Through all these statistics and stories, Mr Yergin sets the context for his contention that oil and gas will continue to be part of the ongoing energy mix, and their role remains a central theme of global energy order in the upcoming decades.

Yergin does not doubt climate change or question the transition to green energy. In his book, he discusses the substantial progress made in renewable energy and suggests that the use of wind and solar power will continue to grow despite the obstacles still standing in their way. He also provides a thorough history of the electric car (which I really enjoyed) and suggests that EVs will become commonplace and that governments will impose greater restrictions on fossil fuel use to combat climate change. He acknowledges that a change like this will eventually occur. But he believes that energy transformation is a gradual process that will take a very long time, and he is unconvinced that this will occur at the ambitious rates promised by net-zero targets. In his opinion, climate change concerns are not yet strong enough to majorly alter geopolitical orders or reshape development plans.

The New Map has been met with mixed reactions and responses, with the majority of critiques being directed at Yergin’s stance on energy transition. While some criticised him for being “so embedded in old patterns of thought that he can’t quite recognise the urgency of the climate crisis”, in the eyes of some, “he is injecting reality into expectations of the energy transition”. I share Yergin’s doubts about optimistic transition rates and very ambitious net-zero targets. My critique, however, goes to other chapters in which I found his perspectives US-centric and also primarily focused on oil and gas producing countries, with China being the only big demand centre discussed. I was hoping to read more about developing countries and new MAPs for Africa, India, or South America. Overall though, in my opinion, the New Map is timely and a fitting follow-up to his previous books “The Quest” and “The Prize”.

Ref 1) https://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2020/10/book-review-the-new-map-by-daniel-yergin/

Ref 2) https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/daniel-yergin-bill-mckibben-new-map-book-review-energy-oil-climate-crisis-b672002.html

Ref 3) https://www.pressreader.com/usa/usa-today internationaledition/20200917/281848646024355

Ref 4) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ye1EIY2p-wo

Ref 5) “The New Map, Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations”, Daniel Yergin, Penguin Press 2020

 

BOOK REVIEW: ‘How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need’, by Bill Gates

By Semra Bakkaloglu, Research Associate, SGI

How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need by Bill Gates is also a short book (288 pages). Because the majority of respected environmental books have been authored by scientist and social activists, Gates’s entrepreneurial approach is intriguing. Despite his lack of expertise on the subject, this book is reader-friendly and accessible to anybody with an interest in the subject. He simplifies the science, explains why and how climate change is occurring, and discusses the importance of achieving a net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goal, as well as how we can do so using existing technology and necessary innovation.

Gates explains how to get zero emissions from the world’s annual emissions of 51 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. He focuses on emissions from five industries: electricity, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation, and heating and cooling systems. In each chapter, he discusses each sector’s emissions and various technologies for reducing emissions. Predictably, his book emphasis the carbon-free technology solutions for the energy system to eliminate a greater percentage of our overall emissions. He highlights how important it is to electrify as much human activity as possible. He is concerned that solar panels and wind turbines are not as efficient as nuclear power in the energy sector. Obviously, he supports the world’s use of nuclear power in the coming years and encourages investment and technological advancements in that sector. He does not, however, go into detail about the future of hydrogen usage, which the entire world is moving toward. He also avoids addressing waste sector emissions throughout the book, particularly how to deal with nuclear waste when advocating for nuclear power. On the other hand, I think he does a great job in the final chapters of summarising the government’s role in combating climate change.

The book didn’t teach me much, but I get the impression that its real purpose is to pique the interest of people who have been complacent up to this point. It does provide an exceptionally detailed overview of the potential answers that are worth exploring. I urge that newcomers to climate change read this book. The concepts expressed here by one of the world’s most admired billionaires will not disappoint you.

 

BOOK REVIEW: “Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullsh*t, Five-Point Plan for Saving the Planet” by John Pabon

By Zara Qadir, Communications Manager

“Sustainability for the Rest of Us: Your No-Bullsh*t, Five-Point Plan for Saving the Planet” by John Pabon is a short book (just 200 pages) and a definite page-turner for those who want to delve beyond the hype. The book makes you think critically about sustainability (‘as not all giving is equal’) as well as providing a simple plan and crash course guide to sustainability terminology. Pabon talks about how to spot greenwashing and how often philanthropy is misplaced by those who are well-meaning. However, he also highlights projects that have had a real positive impact on communities and the environment.

Pabon describes himself as a pragmatic altruist, and tells us that ‘passion, without pragmatism, is just complaining’. His book is a witty, bold, and refreshing read that makes you feel uncomfortable sometimes. However, his overall advice is solid with a strong background in sustainability at organizations such as United Nations, McKinsey, A.C. Nielsen.

When volunteering your time, he recommends looking at donating your professional skills in an ongoing way where it is needed most. We’ve got to focus on what we can do and not try to do everything at once, so we don’t burn out. He also says it is useful to think like a marketer, not an activist. By this, Pabon means identifying your stakeholders and working with them to find out what the best long-term solution is. The afterword focuses on the impact of Covid-19 and highlights some positive developments, for example, an unprecedented and significant reduction (although short-term) in greenhouse gas emissions across the globe.

Cutting methane in the EU energy sector- is the new Regulation doing enough to tackle emissions?

By Dr Jasmin Cooper, Research Associate, Sustainable Gas Institute

Since 2020 the EU has been proactive in its approach to tacking methane emissions and in October 2020, the Commission published its Methane Strategy (European Commission, 2020), which outlined the Commission’s goal of cutting emissions by 35-37% by 2030 (relative to 2005) across Member States. In October 2021, the EU co-launched the Global Methane Pledge (European Commission, 2021a) and in December 2021 the European Commission released their framework on how to tackle methane emissions in the energy sector (European Commission, 2021b). This framework outlines the Commissions legislative approach for how cuts to methane emissions are to be made, and how to ensure all Member States achieve the necessary cuts. The Regulation introduced addresses methane from oil and gas and coal but emissions from biomass are not included. It aims to develop a union-wide framework that is homogenous in its approach and standards, with a large focus on transparency in emissions reporting and verification. To cut methane emissions, the Regulation focuses on improving emissions monitoring and reporting, eliminating venting and flaring and establishing minimum standards in leak detection and repair.

Improve accuracy and transparency in emissions reporting

The Regulation outlines the rules on how methane emissions from oil, gas and coal production, storage, transport and distribution within the EU’s borders are to be accurately measured, reported and verified. To ensure operators are implementing the measures set out in the Regulation, each Member State must appoint at least one competent authority to oversee compliance with the Regulation. To verify emissions, independently accredited verified will review the emissions reports submitted by the operators and ensure these follow the requirements set out in the Regulation. The International Methane Emissions Observatory will be given a verification role in emissions data and the information produced will be made available to the public and the Commission.

Actions to cut emissions in the oil and gas sector

The Regulation specifies that upon entry of the Regulation, operators must submit emissions reports for all of their operated and non-operated assets on an annual basis. The first report gives source level emission estimates estimated using emission factors. In subsequent reports, emissions are estimated using direct measurement methods with emissions verification by site-level emissions measurements.

To mitigate methane emissions in oil and gas, the Regulation sets out specific rules for leak detection and repair (LDAR), venting and flaring:

 Leak detection and repair

Within three months of entry of the Regulation, operators need to submit their LDAR programme, which outlines the surveys to be carried out. By month six of entry of the Regulation, all relevant components an operator is responsibility for must have been surveyed. In the surveys, a leak is defined as 500 ppm methane and all components found to emit this amount or more must be repaired or replaced immediately, or as soon as possible (but no later than five days after detection).

Limits to venting and flaring

Under the Regulation, both venting and flare are banned except under specific circumstances e.g. emergencies and malfunctions. Flaring is preferred over venting, but only when re-injection, on site utilisation or entry into a gas market is not possible for non-economic reasons. If an operator wishes to vent or flare gas, they must demonstrate that venting or flaring is necessary and must notify the necessary authorities of any venting and flaring event within 48 hours of the event initiating.

Actions to cut emission in the coal sector

To tackle methane emissions from coal mines, an approach similar to oil and gas is outlined. Specifically, the Regulation focuses on ventilation shafts in underground mines, drainage systems and open coal mines. The Regulation largely focuses on improving emissions measurement and monitoring but also prohibits venting and flaring in mines, except for emergencies. For abandoned coal mines, operators are required to measure and monitor emissions from all abandoned and closed coal mines and to report the emission measured on a yearly basis.

Addressing emissions from outside the EU’s borders

The Regulation has a large focus on transparency in emissions data but states that the Union is committed to working with exporting countries to tackle methane. To improve transparency, countries who supply fossil fuels to EU Member States are required to provide the Member State with data on methane emissions: emissions measurements, reporting and what emission abatement measures are being carried out. To aid in improving transparency in emissions data, exporting countries will be incentivised to sign up to international partnerships and coalitions that aim to cut methane emissions, such as OGMP 2.0. The Commission will assess the submitted information on data quality and detail of monitoring, reporting and emissions verification applied by the exporting country. This data will use used to create a methane transparency database, which will be made available to the public for free.

In addition to this database, the Commission will also establish a global methane monitoring tool, using satellite data and emissions data provided by operators. This tool will also be made available to the public and will be used to provide information and updates on the magnitude, occurrence and location of high methane emitting sources.

Does it go far enough?

Following on from the EU Methane Strategy, it is good to see the Commission lay out clear rules for how methane emissions are to be cut. However, while it does tackle key areas in methane abatement such as emissions data quality and accuracy, there are areas which are lacking and could be improved upon revisions to the Regulation:

  • The Regulation does not outline technologies to be used in emissions monitoring, particularly in LDAR and instead chooses to allow Member States flexibility such that LDAR technologies can be innovated and developed.
  • Emissions from coal outside of mining are not included. Methane can also be emitted during coal waste management, handling, processing and transportation.
  • It does not specify penalties to Member States or operators who fail to meet the obligations outlined, and individual Member States are to lay down their rules on penalties. However, the Regulation does specify that penalties must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.
  • The Regulation could go further in applying pressure to fossil fuel exporters. It does not specify actions for exporters whose emissions and reporting standards are not on par with what is to be expected.

References

European Commission 2020. COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT, THE COUNCIL, THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL COMMITTEE AND THE COMMITTEE OF THE REGIONS on an EU strategy to reduce methane emissions. Brussels, BE: European Commission

European Commission. 2021a. Launch by United States, the European Union, and Partners of the Global Methane Pledge to Keep 1.5C Within Reach [Press Release]. Brussels, BE. Available: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/statement_21_5766.

European Commission 2021b. Proposal for a REGULATION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on methane emissions reduction in the energy sector and amending Regulation (EU) 2019/942

COM/2021/805 final. Brussels, BE: European Commission