A report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) said last year oil and gas operations released over 70 million tonnes of methane, or about 10% less than 2019.
Methane has the potential to heat 80 times more than carbon dioxide in its first 20 years in the atmosphere and is likely to leak from oil and gas infrastructures such as pipelines.
Other industries, including agriculture, are also large emitters of methane. According to the data, Russia and the USA are the largest methane emitters.
The bulk of the drop in methane emissions in 2020 was not due to greater care taken by major oil and energy companies to prevent methane spills from their operations, but because they were producing and consuming less.
The risk of a reversal of this downward trend as the recovery of global economic activity increases oil production is undeniable.
An unprecedented deal in April between the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Russia and other nations cut oil production by around 10 million barrels per day, or 10% of pre-coronavirus global demand.
US sanctions crippled Venezuelan production, and Libya’s oil industry suffered from prolonged infighting. On top of that, a volume war broke out between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and then.the COVID-19 pandemic dropped demand. US producers with high production costs were affected by the falling oil prices in 2020.
In the Sustainable Development Scenario of the IEA, which sees that global warming has been reduced to manageable levels, it is planned to reduce the methane emissions of the energy sector below 50 million tons by 2025 and 25 million tons by 2030.
The major publicly traded energy companies and some national oil companies are members of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative that sets methane reduction targets.
It is obvious that about 10% of the leaks in 2020 was prevented without any special effort, simply through a decrease in production and supply.