While LNG has a role to play in the world's low-carbon energy future, the industry must address the issue of methane emissions in the supply chain, says John Snyder
As I write this on UN World Environment Day, I am having a hard time figuring out how the world is going to meet the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions objectives committed to in the Paris Agreement.
Clearly, in my mind, doing so will see LNG (or natural gas) playing the role of best supporting actor to renewables, electrification and other alternative fuels.
But in order for LNG to play its role in a low-carbon world, the oil and gas industry must address methane emissions across the LNG and natural gas supply chain now. It is a real sticking point. Indirect GHG emissions from gas production, processing and transport account for between 15 and 40% of its total lifecycle emissions, with methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases, accounting for two thirds of those emissions, according to the IEA.
A good place to start cleaning up methane emissions in the LNG supply chain would be to improve leak detection and monitoring at LNG terminals and on board gas carriers. Above deck piping on an LNG carrier can be quite complex, making leaks at flange connections hard to detect. Leaks can also occur from pumps, valves and compressor seals and even during loading and unloading operations.
The heartening news is that there are a number of efforts underway in this area. Lloyd’s Register Foundation has joined with Shell in an incubator-programme to develop new technologies that will improve leak detection on board ships.
Shell has signed on to the methane guiding principles, which aim to work to reduce methane emissions in the natural gas supply chain. A coalition of energy majors, international institutions, NGOs and academics have also joined the effort.
I also tip my hat to SIGTTO, which is working with the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, Imperial College London, Enagas and the National Physical Laboratory on a project to measure and model methane emissions across the LNG supply chain, including LNG shipping.
I will be interested to hear about the results of the project, particularly its findings on how such emissions can be cost-effectively minimised. Perhaps by next year’s World Environment Day, we will be able to report on some major advancements in methane emissions abatement technologies.