2030 Methane Reduction Goal Realities

    Reflections From COP28

    This article was written by Nooshin Behroyan.


    I studiously watched the COP28 climate conference as it unfolded in Dubai, a crucial gathering where world leaders and experts discussed the pressing issue of climate change. As it ended last week, I am left with a mixture of hope and concern, particularly when it comes to the ambitious goal of reducing methane emissions by 80% by 2038, a commitment championed by President Biden and reinforced by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). While this goal is undoubtedly commendable, I could not help but wonder if the math presented aligns with the true scale of the methane problem we face…

    President Biden’s commitment to reducing methane emissions is an essential step toward addressing climate change, but the EPA’s pledge to prevent only 58 million tons (52.6 million tonnes) of methane from being emitted does not quite add up. The stark reality is that methane emissions are much higher than that, approximately 133 billion tons (120.7 tonnes) per year according to data available at the time of the conference. This discrepancy between the commitment and the actual emissions is a cause for concern.

    At the conference, though plenty of commitments were made to eradicate emissions, there was a notable lack of discussion about the sheer magnitude of methane emissions. Relevance to the problem was not factored into the numbers. If we were to accept the math presented at this conference, elimination of 58 million tons of methane would only mean a 0.04% reduction. I am, however, glad to see that methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases and the largest amount of which (33%) escapes from natural gas pipeline operations, was a focused conversation for the first time. Nevertheless, the numerical commitments made to curb these emissions raises a crucial question: do industry and policymakers fully grasp the potential of existing methane recapture technologies? As such, I wrote a letter to former Senator John Kerry, who now is the first US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and look forward to a discussion with him.

    Paxon Energy & Infrastructure has been servicing the nation’s utilities and oil and gas operators with methane recapture technologies. Since, 2016, we have captured 830,000 tons (752,963 tonnes) of methane. The fact that a relatively small company like ours can prevent such a substantial amount of methane from being emitted begs the question: why is the EPA only committing to 58 million tons?

    The answer to this question lies, in part, in a method called “cross compression.” This innovative method offers a highly effective means of capturing and reusing methane emissions — 99% of it, in fact. Unfortunately, it seems that the White House and the EPA may not be fully aware of the potential of this technology, which is a game-changer in the fight against methane emissions for the energy industry.

    As we move forward, it is critical that we focus on tangible actions rather than merely patting ourselves on the back for obtaining carbon credits or making lofty commitments that may not reflect the true scale of the problem. The math behind our emissions reductions goals must be accurate and based on the latest technology and best practices available.

    At COP28, there was also a heated debate over the definitions of “phasing out” fossil fuels, versus “restricting” their use. In the World Economic Forum’s article by Simon Evans, policy editor on Carbon Briefs, he expounds upon the definitions that were in hot debate. The fact this is even a conversation is worrisome. It is true that only 13% to 24% of America’s energy needs are served by the current infrastructure of clean energy methods, so this makes it even more urgent that the existing infrastructure be optimized until renewables can meet our energy demands.

    Leaks, blow downs, and flaring do not need to happen. The technology to eradicate this exists and is in use, not by fringe operators, but by stakeholders.

    In an insightful and elegantly presented article by Dr. Franz Baumann titled “The Science of Global Heating,” he underscores the urgency of addressing methane emissions as part of our broader efforts to combat climate change. Dr. Baumann, United Nations Special Adviser on Environment and Peace Operations with the rank of Assistant Secretary-General, brings valuable perspective to the conversation, emphasizing the critical role of methane in global warming and the need for comprehensive solutions. In this article, he describes the evolution of energy production and fossil fuels. He takes the reader through history, noting that although the Industrial Age sparked massive productivity, it also catapulted us into a modern age of mass production and over consumption — which no longer serves our future, and now threatens it.

    As we reflect on the COP28 conference and the 2030 methane reduction goal realities, we must strive for a more accurate understanding of the problem and leverage innovative technologies like cross compression to make a tangible difference. It is only through such concerted efforts that we can hope to achieve our climate goals and safeguard the future of our planet.