Importance of Methane Intensity
President Biden highlighted the impact of methane emissions on climate change at the Conference of Parties 26 (“COP26”) talks in October. The effect of methane emissions is further demonstrated by a proliferation of mandatory and voluntary programs to limit methane emissions throughout the oil and natural gas supply chains. Particularly critical for oil and gas operators, “methane intensity” is becoming a preferred approach for communicating methane emissions data and performance throughout the industry. Currently, there is no universal standard methodology for calculating methane intensity. The lack of methodology is an obstacle to managing, tracking, and transparently communicating endeavors to reduce methane emissions. This article provides information to assist oil and gas operators in understanding and making decisions about measuring and reporting methane intensities.
Methane emissions intensity is a measure of methane emissions relative to natural gas throughput, also referred to as the methane intensity rate. This measures the methane component of natural gas emissions relative to the methane component of natural gas produced in the natural gas system. Intensity is becoming a preferred approach for communicating methane emissions data throughout the oil and gas industry for two primary reasons:
- It enables a comparison of performance between similar business operations within a company or between different companies which is not reflected when comparing total methane emissions.
- It can track performance over time to meet Environmental, Social and Governance (“ESG”) targets and communicate progress.
Multiple voluntary ESG reporting standards (for more information on SASB, TCFD, AXPC ESG, etc., please refer to How to Surf the ESG Wave) address methane intensity. These ESG standards rely on various methodologies and protocols, including the Greenhouse Gas Protocol (“GHGP”), the Natural Gas Sustainability Initiative (“NGSI”) created by the American Gas Association, and the regulatory framework provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) in the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program (“GHGRP”) and the Greenhouse Gas Inventory (“GHGI”). There are also voluntary reporting initiatives that primarily target natural gas operators, including One Future. There is also an increasing number of certifications for methane intensity provided by private companies and third parties; keep an eye out for additional Spirit articles on this topic.
Methane Intensity Differences
The primary differences in the various protocol intensities are what is included in the numerator (which sources, how the methane emissions are categorized) and the denominator (production of natural gas versus methane component, total CO2e emissions). Table 1 summarizes some key differences; for more specifics on emissions sources included in each please reach out to Conor Merrigan.