Natural gas emissions threaten EU carbon budget

Article by Neil Clark

METHANE emissions from natural gas have been underestimated by governments, and the “bridging fuel” should be phased out alongside coal and oil to meet 2035 Paris Agreement targets, according to a new study.

Current CH4 emissions will lead to a temperature change of approximately 0.6°C, says the report by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research. This, alongside other fossil fuel use, means Europe’s carbon budget, to limit a 2°C increase in temperature from pre-industrial levels, will be exceeded in under nine years.

The study also concludes that it “is no longer viable to mitigate emissions at a global level” to limit a temperature increase to 1.5°C, and that to meet its 2°C commitment the EU needs a “highly optimistic” mitigation agenda of 12% a year, starting immediately.

Authors Kevin Anderson and John Broderick say that there is “categorically no role” for new gas, oil or coal production, and an “urgent programme to phase out existing natural gas and other fossil fuel use across the EU” is needed to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

European countries, including the UK, have agreed to burn more natural gas as a “bridging fuel” to help the transition to a low-carbon economy, as it is a less intermittent form of power than renewables and emits less CO2 than coal. However, natural gas supply chains result in methane emissions, which have approximately 34 times more global warming potential of CO2 over a 100-year period.

Their report’s methodology was based on life cycle analysis, and included a meta-analysis of 250 natural gas supply chain studies – both primary measurements and secondary sources. The resulting dataset was, according to the authors, “the most useful resource available for a synoptic view of methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain”.

The report was commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe, which told The Chemical Engineer that the study was also reviewed by Grant Allen, a methane expert from the University of Manchester. It added that the authors regularly consulted with peers to ensure figures, methods and conclusions were coherent and solid, which included climate expert Glen Peters from the Center for International Climate Research in Oslo.

Article by Neil Clark

Staff Reporter, The Chemical Engineer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.