The state-owned oil and gas company Qatar Energy said Monday it is joining a new industry-led initiative to reduce nearly all methane emissions from operations by 2030.
It comes as part of a broader global push to tackle emissions from methane, or natural gas, which is the second most polluting climate-changing gas after carbon dioxide, and much more potent than CO2. Unlike carbon dioxide, though, methane’s leakage into the atmosphere is not the result of combustion or fuel-burning, instead it represents the loss of a marketable fuel. Methane is responsible for about a quarter of all the climate change already being experienced worldwide.
Technology has allowed energy companies, independent groups and citizen sleuths to monitor methane leakage with cameras, drones and satellites. This monitoring along with greater climate change awareness is pushing companies to reduce their methane emissions and fix leakages from faulty pipes and other equipment.
With its pledge, Qatar Energy joins an initiative launched in March of this year by 12 other major oil and gas companies, including Aramco, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, Shell and others.
Qatar is among the world’s top liquefied natural gas exporters and Qatar Energy operates all of the country’s oil and gas exploration and production, making the peninsula-nation among the world’s richest per capita. The tiny country, which borders Saudi Arabia to the east, shares control with Iran of the world’s largest underwater natural gas field in the Persian Gulf.
Natural gas, which primarily consists of methane, forms the backbone of Qatar’s economy and Qatar Energy’s activities. Leaks of methane by oil and gas companies not only harm the environment, but are also seen as a waste of natural gas.
“Making repairs to prevent leaks can often be paid for by the value of the additional gas that is brought to market,” according to a report by the International Energy Agency last year on methane leaks.
Private satellite companies that monitor methane emissions say they saw a dramatic acceleration of emissions from oil, methane and coal in 2021, compared to 2020 when the pandemic slowed down demand. The International Energy Agency’s methane tracking separately found that oil and gas operations worldwide emitted more than 70 million tons of methane into the atmosphere in 2021, describing it as broadly equivalent to the total energy-related carbon dioxide emissions from the entire European Union.
The IEA also noted that companies that do not do more to curb methane emissions could face reputational damage and commercial risks as consumers increasingly look at the emissions profile of different sources of gas.
Qatar Energy CEO Saad al-Kaabi said that by joining the “Aiming for Zero Methane Emissions Initiative” the company is reaffirming Qatar’s commitments to global efforts to reducing emissions. Qatar, unlike Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last year, has not joined other countries in announcing an overall net zero pledge.