Methane emissions: safeguarding affordability, environment and security of supply

Reception in Brussels

Chaired by Maria Spyraki MEP, Director of the EEF
François-Régis Mouton, Regional Director Europe, IOGP Europe
Francisco de la Flor, Board Member, GIE
Jean-Marie Gauthey, Head of European affairs at GRDF, member of GD4S
Kitty Nyitrai, Head of Unit Decarbonization and Sustainability of Energy Sources, DG ENER, European Commission

The EEF Reception Debate was an opportunity to discuss the feasibility and the objectives of the proposal on methane (CH4) emissions reduction in the energy sector, as well as the related environmental benefits of this highly technical dossier.

The Chair Maria Spyraki MEP (EPP, Greece), Director of the EEF, introduced the discussion underlining that a cross-sectoral approach is key to reducing methane emissions as well as providing a clear and realistic regulatory framework that ensures the highest standards of measurement, reporting and verification (MRV). The compromise reached in the shadows’ meeting on articles 13, 14 and 22 of the Methane Regulation goes in the direction of securing the energy supply, avoiding additional costs for end-users and incentivising investments, even though the proposal could still be improved with regard to the leak detection methods.

Cristian-Silviu Buşoi MEP (EPP, Romania), ITRE Committee Chair and EEF Active Member took the floor and emphasised the great impact of the European Commission (EC) proposal on the industry, and especially where inactive gas wells need careful monitoring. According to Mr Buşoi, there is still the need to work on articles 14, 18 and 27 of the regulation, while remaining ambitious in tackling not only climate change but also preserving the competitiveness of European industries and enhancing jobs and security of supply.

François-Régis Mouton, Regional Director at IOGP Europe expressed the support of IOGP for the EC proposal and pointed to the figures reporting methane emissions from IOGP, which constitute 0.26% of the emissions from the energy supply sector, that in turn represents about 13% of man-made CH4 emissions. It is important that the regulation recognises continuous monitoring, as well as those operators that are meeting the performance standard, so as to reduce the frequency of Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR). The imposition of CH4 emissions reduction requirements in inactive subsea wells is not physically feasible, while for onshore inactive wells pressure monitoring should be allowed. Permanently plugged and abandoned (P&A) wells should in addition be excluded from the regulation, since they are not supposed to leak at all, while the liability imposed on the molecule’s importers for incomplete or inaccurate information can involve a supply security risk.

Francisco de la Flor, Board Member at GIE stressed that the draft text needs some improvements, especially Art. 3 (costs for regulated operators), which concerns mid-streamers. For regulated operators, it is the full cost that is relevant, and while most of the abatement was done several years ago, now the curve is at the asymptotical point. It is crucial to prevent unjustifiable costs to society, thus ensuring proportionality via a limit to abatement costs per tonne of CH4, and prioritise measures based on their effectiveness. Once a minimum degree of performance – through segment-specific targets and robust MRV – is achieved, flexibility should be granted to operators. Other improvements include aligning with the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) Technical Guidance Documents (TGDs), standardising equipment and prioritising efficient measures.

Jean-Marie Gauthey, Head of European affairs at GRDF and member of GD4S highlighted the complexity of increasing the frequency of the works on the distribution network, mainly because this also depends on third parties (authorities and local inhabitants). Although CH4 leaks in the distribution grid can originate from third-party damage, third-party warning (anyone smelling gas) and fugitive leaks (detected via LDAR survey), the proposed regulation is mainly focused on the latter, which can be detected via surveys done carried out on foot or by car with high sensitivity sensors along the pipe routes. Mr Gauthey claimed that data management is key to implementing efficient renovation and maintenance programmes, but that high frequency of LDAR will significantly impact the consumers’ tariffs. Instead, it is important to focus on efficiency and optimisation, especially through preventive maintenance.

Before giving the floor to the European Commission, Chair Maria Spyraki MEP took the floor to highlight the importance of sticking to the 30% methane emissions reduction pledge by 2030, and the need to enhance emissions reduction in the energy sector, as it is the more feasible sector where to start from.

Kitti Nyitrai, Head of Unit Decarbonization and Sustainability of Energy Sources of DG ENER at the European Commission argued that the approval of the text can bring the EU at the forefront of the global emissions reduction effort also in cooperation with the US, and that abating CH4 emissions in the energy sector is more cost-efficient than starting from the agricultural sector, while in the waste sector the legislation already imposes strict reduction targets. MRV is crucial to have better data, not only because it was the starting point of the EC, but because dealing with methane also involves health and food supply issues.

The Q&A session enabled the participants to deepen the issue more particularly on gas odourisation for safety reasons, methane emissions from LNG cargoes, awareness-raising efforts and translating voluntary standards into rules and ambitious abatement measures.