UPDATED 1 Sept: The EI library in London is temporarily closed to the public, as a precautionary measure in light of the ongoing COVID-19 situation. The Knowledge Service will still be answering email queries via email , or via live chats during working hours (09:15-17:00 GMT). Our e-library is always open for members here: eLibrary , for full-text access to over 200 e-books and millions of articles. Thank you for your patience.
New Energy World magazine logo
New Energy World magazine logo
ISSN 2753-7757 (Online)

Methane emissions still ‘stubbornly high'


Gas flare from offshore platform Photo: Shutterstock
Around 260bn m3 of methane is currently lost to the atmosphere each year from oil and gas operations, according to the IEA

Photo: Shutterstock

A combination of high energy prices, security of supply concerns and economic uncertainty were not enough to drive down methane emissions last year, according to new International Energy Agency (IEA) analysis.

The IEA’s latest update of its Global Methane Tracker finds that the global energy industry was responsible for 135mn tonnes of methane released into the atmosphere in 2022, only slightly below the record highs seen in 2019. Today, the energy sector accounts for around 40% of total methane emissions attributable to human activity, second only to agriculture.


Methane emissions from oil and gas alone could be reduced by 75% with existing technologies, highlighting a lack of industry action on an issue that is often very cheap to address. Less than 3% of the income accrued by oil and gas companies worldwide last year would be required to make the $100bn investment in technologies needed to achieve this reduction, according to the IEA.


Commenting on the news, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol says the report shows that some progress is being made but that emissions are ‘still far too high and not falling fast enough’, especially as methane cuts are among the cheapest options to limit near-term global warming. He adds: ‘There is just no excuse. The Nord Stream pipeline explosion last year released a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere. But normal oil and gas operations around the world release the same amount of methane as the Nord Stream explosion every single day.’


Stopping all non-emergency flaring and venting of methane is the most impactful measure countries can take to rein in emissions, the IEA says. Around 260bn m3 of methane is currently lost to the atmosphere each year from oil and gas operations. Three-quarters of this could be retained and brought to market using tried and tested policies and technologies. The captured methane would amount to more than the European Union’s total annual gas imports from Russia prior to the invasion of Ukraine, the report says.


Satellites are providing an ever-clearer picture of methane emissions and greatly increasing the world’s knowledge of emission sources. In 2022 alone, more than 500 super-emitting events were detected by satellites from oil and gas operations and a further 100 were seen at coal mines.


‘The untamed release of methane in fossil fuel production is a problem that sometimes goes under the radar in public debate,’ Dr Birol says. ‘Unfortunately, it’s not a new issue and emissions remain stubbornly high. Many companies saw hefty profits last year following a turbulent period for international oil and gas markets amid the global energy crisis. Fossil fuel producers need to step up and policy makers need to step in – and both must do so quickly.’