Planet-warming methane leaking from European gas plants
This is methane gas, spewing from an energy facility in Italy,
caught on infrared footage that’s been made available to Reuters.
It’s one example of many.
The potent greenhouse gas is seeping from natural gas facilities across the European Union, through leaking and venting.
“The images I've taken, I've taken over the last three months and I've been to over two hundred sites across Europe.”
This is the man who captured the leaking – James Turitto – a campaigner at non-profit Clean Air Task Force, or CAFT.
“Most of these sites have been leaking emissions in some way or another. And some sites I actually go back to, to see if they're continuing to leak. And I'm finding that they are.”
Methane is colorless and cannot be seen with the human eye.
Using a $119,000 camera, CATF found methane seeping into the air at 123 oil and gas sites since February 2021.
Methane is the biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide.
It’s the main component of natural gas and over 80 times more potent than CO2 in its first 20 years in the air.
At the moment, none of the companies running the sites surveyed by CATF have done anything illegal.
That’s because the EU neither regulates methane emissions nor forces firms to monitor emissions during the production or transport of gas in Europe.
But, that's set to change.
The EU is proposing legislation this year that will force oil and gas companies to monitor and report methane emissions.
What the footage reveals is that leaking could be avoided if infrastructure owners use existing technology.
In many cases, leaks can be fixed at no net cost, since the captured gas could be sold for more than the cost of the repairs, according to the International Energy Agency.
At one gas storage site in Italy, methane appeared to be leaking out of a rusty hole in the side of a tank.
(James Turitto) “Whether it's a leak or some sort of operational practice, most of these emissions can be reduced at negative or marginal cost to the company. For instance, when you look at the video of the rusted hole in the tank from Italy, you see that could have been detected with a leak detection and repair program and then the company could have gone and fixed the tank. ”
The company said the leak was from a water tank and that it had been detected and fixed during regular maintenance.
The company also said it is supportive of EU regulations to address methane emissions.
Experts say the new rules will shake things up for every oil and gas firm in Europe.
But it’s not just the EU.
The New York Times used an infrared camera to show methane leaks were also widespread at U.S. oil and gas sites in 2019.
Globally, the concentration of methane in the atmosphere is rising.
A U.N. report in April said that without deep cuts in methane emissions this decade,
the Paris Agreement's goal of limit warming to 1.5 Celsius would slip out of reach.