No More Methane Leakage for LNG?
LNG is a cleanest-burning fossil fuel that helps reduce the amount of CO2, sulphur and other emissions. It is a vehicle for coal-reliant countries and the shipping industry to move away from highly polluting fuels to ensure cleaner air. Even with its advantages, LNG runs into trouble when it comes to methane leakage. But is it possible to stop methane from polluting the atmosphere?
Why is methane leakage bad?
As a bunker fuel, LNG is composed of 95% methane. In the LNG supply chain, from natural gas production to LNG handling, there is a possibility of methane leakage also known as a methane slip. It is recognised as a potent greenhouse gas that has warming potential 36 times higher than CO2 over a 100-year period. Methane constitutes 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, and if leaks keep growing, it can negate the advantage of using natural gas over coal.
In the natural gas supply chain, methane loss is around 2.5%, and experts project that to reach higher pollution rates than coal, the threshold is about 4%. While the gas industry hasn’t crossed that threshold yet, methane leaks still happen and are dangerous. Along with adding to global warming, leaked methane can contribute ground-level ozone, a pollutant that affects air quality, creating smog that is harmful to human health, making respiratory conditions like asthma worse.
What is being done to stop methane leakage?
The Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) launched a Methane Detectors Challenge to encourage oil and gas companies, U.S.-based technology developers, and other experts to find efficient ways for methane leak detection and fixes in real time. One of the entrants was Shell that launched a methane detection pilot at one of its shale gas sites in Canada to provide operators with real-time information on the integrity and performance of their sites. Continuing its mission to reduce methane leakages, Shell introduced a Gen 4 multi-well pad that includes electric valve actuators instead of pneumatic ones. It has a “zero-bleed philosophy”, meaning the methane is not released into the atmosphere.
Other companies are also involved in preventing methane slip. Dominion Energy, which owns the Cove Point LNG Terminal, recently announced the start of an industry-leading, voluntary initiative across entire gas infrastructure business to reduce methane emissions by 50% by 2030. The initiative aims to reduce or eliminate gas venting during maintenance, introduce low-emission equipment and expand leak detection & repair programs.
In the state of Virginia in the US, where the world’s first LNG plant was constructed, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality drafted a permit for a compressor station in Buckingham County that requires a vent gas reduction system. If approved it could cut methane emissions by more than 99%. More than that, a special task force is expected to look at methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure and propose further state regulations to limit leaks.
Explore other ways to lessen the environmental impact of LNG from industry leaders and experts at the 4th International LNG Summit in Oslo, Norway on June 18th. Registration is already open, and you can sign up at www.lngsummit.org.