Tackling methane emissions is vital if natural gas – increasingly decarbonized over time – is to play its fullest role in the energy transition. But to do that, we need to tackle methane emissions fast, and regulations can help.

Why methane reduction matters

Methane currently accounts for around one-fifth of man-made global greenhouse gas emissions on a like-for-like basis. It has a shorter lifetime in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide (CO₂), but a greater near-term warming potential. In fact, methane has more than 80 times the warming power of CO₂ over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere.

But because of methane’s shorter lifetime in the air, reducing new methane emissions could dramatically reduce the pace of warming. So curbing methane emissions from oil and gas can have incredible near-term impacts — both on climate warming and on the world’s ability to meet net zero by 2050 or sooner. Methane is the primary component in natural gas and that’s why we’re in action to minimize methane emissions at our sites.

Methane measurement

We are aiming to install methane measurement at all our existing major oil and gas processing sites by 2023, publish the data and then drive a 50% reduction in methane intensity of our operations globally.

To meet our aim, we’re also adopting a new measurement approach to address methane emissions. By the end of 2023, we will roll out this new measurement approach to relevant sites. This new approach, developed in 2020, comprises a prioritized hierarchy of options for making more use of methane measurement. Based on this new measurement approach, we have set a 2025 methane intensity target of 0.20% and have now moved away from a target based on general industry methodologies, such as calculating or estimating emissions using emission factors.

Increased measurement is key to better reporting and planning targeted interventions — and assessing their impact. And we hope that by sharing our data, we can help others improve their methane emission reduction efforts, too.

However, voluntary initiatives like ours will not be enough to effectively minimize methane emissions across the sector. Regulation has a clear role to play. It’s a fair way to drive all companies to prioritize methane abatement.

Methane molecules float against a blue and black background

Our methane advocacy

We believe natural gas – increasingly decarbonized over time – has a key role to play in getting the world to net zero. Tackling methane emissions is critical to get all the benefits natural gas can offer. So, we’re convening experts, sharing best practices and advocating for greater regulation of methane.

For example, bp supports the direct regulation of methane from new and existing sources by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To help achieve this, we encouraged Congress and the Biden Administration to roll back the 2020 changes to EPA’s methane emissions standards for new and modified sources. In June 2021, President Biden signed legislation restoring the prior methane rules, which will drive reduction in methane emissions in the US. The EPA is expected to propose new regulations for new and modified, as well as existing, sources in response to a January 2021 Executive Order. We’re engaging with the EPA as it develops this new rule as part of our advocacy efforts.

bp is also a signatory to the Methane Guiding Principles and is actively encouraging our joint ventures and partners to sign up. In 2019, we announced a three-year strategic collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund to advance technologies and practices to reduce methane emissions from the global oil and gas industry.

Image of a bp team member working in the field, walking up the steps at the base of a drilling operation, with a tower over him.

Flaring is one of the main sources of methane for our sector. In 2021, we announced our aim to achieve zero routine flaring by 2025 for our US onshore operations. And, in 2020, bp and Shell submitted comments to the Texas Railroad Commission supporting an ambition of zero routine flaring in Texas. We continue to focus on flare reduction activity and to support the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 initiative, which brings together stakeholders to work together to eliminate routine flaring from operated oil assets by 2030.

Even as we expand our methane advocacy work, bp isn’t waiting for regulation to reduce emissions from our operations. Tackling methane is front and center in our near-term actions that are crucial to our net zero transformation.

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