Methane in 2023

Taking stock

The world is not making progress fast enough. Led by the UN, the world community is currently carrying out its first “Global Stocktake” to establish just how much, or how little, progress humankind has made in curbing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change—to avoid irreversible damage to the planet’s climate.

The stocktake will conclude at COP 28 at the end of the year, but the interim snapshots published so far have been disappointing. We’re way off track.

And we’re starting to really see the effects. July was the Earth’s hottest month on record. Large parts of the world are suffering unprecedented heat waves.

The arrival of these temperatures demonstrates the need to act now to reduce the warming we are experiencing today.

Much of the transformation needed is fundamental and complex. But there is one area where we can accelerate our progress now—and slow down warming in the near term.

The clue is in the headline of this article: methane.

Direct methane emissions from energy operations continue to be the unpicked low-hanging fruit in the global fight against climate change. Picking it is increasingly feasible and economically viable, or even profitable.

Methane: let’s do this

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, with a much bigger short-term impact than CO2. It is also the main component of natural gas.

Methane emissions from oil and gas operations are significant. Methane has caused 30% of all global warming, and the oil and gas industry is one of the largest sources of methane emissions.

What’s more, the technologies needed to reduce these emissions are mostly available today. Unlike many other actions, which rely on changes to deeply ingrained infrastructure and behaviours or on technologies yet to be invented, a lot of oil and gas methane emissions can be eliminated today, using off-the-shelf technology.

And the cost is low. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that about half of the reductions are negative net cost due to the value of the gas saved. According to IEA estimates, the most expensive oil and gas methane project costs the same as the cheapest carbon capture and storage project.

Against the backdrop of last year’s windfall profits, the industry can no longer ignore the fact that the most urgent, most impactful action to slow climate change is in its power—and within its means.

Make a start, make a difference

The important thing now is to simply start. Come COP 28 in November, the world’s eyes will be on the energy industry’s action on methane.

A lot of the technologies operators need to get started are ready today, and others will need to be developed fast, in partnership.

To start, the most important missing piece for most operators is a little help navigating what’s available and anticipating how it will scale. The wider support system is emerging fast (and includes me and my team), the standards (Oil & Gas Methane Partnership 2.0, for example) are established, and momentum is building.

My conversations with executives of operating companies are encouraging, but perhaps they still underestimate just how quickly this industry can make a difference from within. We’ve got four months. Let’s make them count.

This article is the first in a new series by the methane team at SEES, a startup within SLB dedicated to helping operators eliminate methane from their operations. Stay tuned for the latest thinking, insights, and tech from the team.

Headshot of Kahina Abdeli Galinier
by Kahina Abdeli-Galinier, Founder & Director, SLB End-to-end Emissions Solutions
Article Topics
Emissions Reduction