Methane, flaring targeted in oil major climate pledge

Total, Statoil, BP, Saudi Aramco, Pemex, Sinopec, Eni and Repsol are to reveal carbon-cutting plan in Paris on Friday

The view of the 12 Pipestill at sundown at BP's Whiting Refinery outside of Chicago, USA (Pic: BP/Flickr)

The view of the 12 Pipestill at sundown at BP’s Whiting Refinery outside of Chicago, USA (Pic: BP/Flickr)

By Ed King

Cuts to methane emissions and flaring from gas plants will headline a climate initiative from eight of the world’s top hydrocarbon producers on Friday.

An announcement from the CEOs of Total, Statoil, BP, Saudi Aramco, Pemex, Sinopec, Eni and Repsol is expected at 9am Paris time as the companies seek to realign themselves as climate-friendly.

“I hope it will be a good announcement – they are the progressive ones,” said France’s top climate diplomat Laurence Tubiana.

“The big challenge for them is what their business model will be in the next 20 years… but we need to recognise they are making an effort – others are not.”

It is the latest move from big oil to convince critics it is committed to a low carbon future. On Wednesday, BP and Shell signed up to a statement supporting work on a Paris climate pact.

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Tubiana told a briefing in London organised by Climate Home and the E3G think tank that she did not expect the companies to announce any new emission cuts.

Rather, they are expected to crack down on flaring and methane leaks and outline plans to report on their progress at regular intervals.

Flaring of natural gas creates emissions equal to the national totals of Brazil, Australia, France or Italy, found a 2014 study commissioned by the European Union. In Nigeria, it accounts for around a third of the country’s annual emissions.

Methane, a warming gas at least 84 times more potent than CO2 over 20 years, is released from hydrocarbon extraction and processing equipment.

According to the International Energy Agency, by 2020 methane reductions from oil and gas drilling could account for 15% of the overall cuts required to keep warming to 2C.

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Still, some industry observers have expressed scepticism over the company’s commitments, one noting to Climate Home that similar but unfulfilled proposals were made in 2001 and 2009.

Anthony Hobley, CEO of the Carbon Tracker Initiative said there were few signs of action amid what he termed “fine words and likely intent”.

“To have credibility any initiative such as this must come up with more than warm words, it must set out concrete and quantitative commitments to take action,” he said.

“Anything less should be seen as nothing more than a cynical attempt to deflect the momentum for action, transparency and focus on the industry.”

This week BP’s chief economist admitted for the first time that the world would not be able to burn all its oil resources if plans to limit warming to below the 2C danger zone were credible.

“It seems unlikely that all the world’s oil will be consumed,” Spencer Dale said.

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