Methane is having a moment: What does that mean for industry?

COP26 started with a bang this week, as more than 100 countries united in a promise to significantly cut methane emissions. Coined the “Methane Pledge”, this commitment is an effective, short-term strategy to help limit global warming to 1.5-degrees, according to European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

The industrial angle on cutting methane

Geologist Simone John has her roots in the oil and gas industry, where she spent more than a decade looking oil for Norway’s Aker BP. She has since transitioned into the world of digitalization, working with Cognite to help customers operate more sustainability. We asked for Simone’s take on the methane pledge through an industrial lens.

Why is methane taking center stage at COP26? We haven’t forgotten about carbon, right?

SJ: Methane is not a substitute for cutting carbon, but it is extremely important in reaching climate targets. It is a powerful greenhouse gas with 80-times more warming power than CO2. But it’s shorter-lived than carbon, remaining about two decades in our atmosphere, versus carbon dioxide which stays for centuries. We can get results quickly in terms of our aggressive climate targets if we manage to reduce methane emissions.

What does the methane pledge mean for industrial companies?

SJ: In my experience, methane reduction is already on the agenda for most in the oil and gas industry, as this industry alone was responsible for about 70 million tons of methane emissions last year. Oil and gas companies are focused on limiting flaring, for example, which is when CO2 and methane are emitted into the atmosphere, and many are also working to prevent leakage in wells and pipes, another methane source. Other industries that emit significant levels of methane include livestock farming and waste management.

Will this pledge make a difference when it comes to meeting climate targets?

SJ: Reducing methane is important, but it’s just one part of a bigger picture, like carbon. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but we must also focus on biodiversity, circularity, and tell the bigger story of how people must change to get our planet on a 1.5-degree path rather than a 2.7-degree path or even warmer. We are changing industries, but we must also change behaviors. This means that across the board, we need to raise the bar, be stricter, and set expectations for both people and companies. 

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