Adopt policies and regulations to reduce emissions from oil and gas supply
Policies should encourage operators to maximise abatement opportunities at the early stages of project planning and development, in addition to incentivising better management of existing facilities. Regulatory measures to prevent methane emissions from oil and gas operations include requiring leak detection and repair programmes, the installation of emission control devices, and the replacement of components and devices that emit methane in their normal operations. Major oil- and gas-producing countries can add commitments to reduce methane emissions to their nationally determined contributions. Government and industry should not delay action: the lack of a baseline should not preclude the introduction of abatement goals and policies to prevent methane leakage and flaring.
Non-emergency flaring and venting should be prohibited, and fiscal or contractual terms should clarify responsibilities for ensuring the productive use of associated gases and their ownership. Many alternatives to flaring and venting are available to companies, including reinjection, on-site use and new market opportunities. Regulations need to address venting and flaring in tandem, as clamping down on flaring could create an incentive to vent methane directly to the atmosphere (which is much worse from a GHG emissions perspective).
A common gap in regulatory systems involves the combustion efficiency of flaring systems. While methane emissions should be minimal if a flare is designed, maintained and operated correctly, higher emissions can occur as a result of faulty operation, adverse climatic conditions or changes in production. Occasionally a flare may be totally extinguished, resulting in gas being vented directly to the atmosphere when it should be combusted. With current global operations and maintenance practices and regulations, we estimate average global combustion efficiency (including both normally operating and extinguished flares) to be around 92%, resulting in methane emissions of about 8 Mt. Policy makers need to develop regulations to address this gap.