Big Methane Plume Seen From Space On Day Of Russian Pipe Repair
(Bloomberg) -- Repair work on a natural gas pipeline belonging to the Russian energy giant Gazprom PJSC resulted in a powerful greenhouse gas release in October, coinciding with a large methane plume that was detected by satellite.
A concentration of methane gas was initially spotted via an analysis of satellite data by the geoanalytics firm Kayrros SAS near a compressor station in the Nizhny Novgorod region in Western Russia, where state-run Gazprom has operations. Asked about the Oct. 5 observation, Gazprom said it carried out work in the area on that day to eliminate defects found on a pipeline, during which some gas was vented.
The early October release had an estimated emissions rate of 164 tons of methane an hour, according to Kayrros. If the discharge lasted an hour at that rate it would have had the same short-term climate impact as the annual emissions of about 8,000 cars in the U.K. Methane has more than 80 times the warming impact of carbon dioxide over the short term.
The release was the fifth most severe identified this year attributed to the Russian oil-and-gas sector, based on the Kayrros analysis of European Space Agency satellite data. It comes amid a global push, led by the U.S. and the European Union, to curb emissions of the greenhouse gas by at least 30% from 2020 levels by the end of the decade. Nearly three dozen nations are expected to join the pledge that already includes Canada, the U.K. and Mexico, at key climate talks starting later this month in Scotland. Russia hasn’t made a commitment yet and has called for emissions-reduction projects to be exempt from sanctions.
Halting intentional releases and accidental leaks of methane could do more to slow climate change than almost any other single measure. Russia is the world’s second-largest natural gas producer after the U.S., but its oil-and-gas operations emit more methane than any other nation’s, according to the International Energy Agency.
Gazprom said the release was carried out within established standards, but didn’t disclose the duration of the release or the amount of gas that was vented in the statement.
“The major bulk of the gas from the disconnected section of the gas pipeline was saved and pumped into the operating section of the gas pipeline,” Gazprom said in an emailed response to questions. “A small part of the gas, which was technologically impossible to store, was vented.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s climate envoy, Ruslan Edelgeriyev, said last week that climate projects shouldn’t be subject to sanctions that limit access to financing and technologies, without elaborating on which restrictions he was referring to.
Edelgeriyev indicated Russia could accept more ambitious climate goals if it gets what it wants at the COP26 summit that starts in Glasgow on Oct. 31. Its position underlines the difficulty of isolating climate change negotiations from wider geopolitical disputes, something the U.S. has repeatedly said it wants to do. Gazprom was among entities sanctioned by the U.S. and the European Union after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.
Negotiations at COP26 may be complicated by a global energy crisis as demand roars back from the pandemic and ahead of the winter heating season. Europe, which has been particularly hard hit by the crisis with surging electricity prices and petrol shortages, remains highly dependent on Russian gas to meet its energy needs.
Gazprom said in June it was responsible for five methane releases detected by satellite over Russia. The operator said at the time that in all cases it sought to use some of the gas, emissions didn’t exceed government-regulated standards and the events would be included in its environmental reports.
Multiple studies have found methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are often higher than what operators and governments report. Releases of the odorless, colorless gas from the U.S. oil and gas supply chain in 2015 were about 60% higher than a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency inventory estimate, a 2018 study published in Science found.
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