Natural Gas as a Source of Methane Emissions Worldwide

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With the United States of America currently leading the production of natural gas hydrocarbons, followed by Russia, Iran, Qatar, Canada, China, The European Union, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan, natural gas along with the oil/petroleum industry account for 20% of total methane emissions worldwide. In its World Oil Outlook 2040, OPEC estimates that the largest upcoming energy demand will come from natural gas, with an average annual growth of 0.4 % from 2015 to 2040. (Global Methane Initiative 2010; Central Intelligence Agency 2017; U.S. Energy Information Administration 2017; OPEC 2017).

Following table chart illustrates OPEC´s forecast for the world primary energy demand by fuel type from 2015 to 2040. According to OPEC´s estimations, the demand for gas will increase by a rate of 1.8% p.a. during this time period, with the majority of demand coming from non-OECD countries and the most rapid economic growth in the developing world. OPEC projects the global economy in 2040 being 226% in comparison to 2016, with 3/4 of growth coming from developing countries. China and India are forecast to account for almost 40% of the global GDP in 2040. (OPEC 2017. World Oil Outlook 2040).

 

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The OPEC acknowledges the relation between population growth and energy demand, however, considering a number of variables for instance in consumer trends. It also states how energy markets are affected by government policies and recognizes the need to monitor these on a regular basis, taking into consideration for instance the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals, with energy efficiency and clean energy now trending development. The OPEC is closely monitoring worldwide energy market and policy developments, mentioning the USA, the European Union, China, and India at the forefront.

OPEC estimates that total world primary energy demand by fuel type from 2015 to 2040 will see an increase of 3.6% for gas, 1,5% for nuclear energy, 0.3% for hydro energy, and 4% for other renewables, while the demand for oil would decrease by 4.2%, coal demand decreasing by 5.1%, and biomass demand decreasing by 0.1% during the time frame. The OPEC identifies energy efficiency as a critical uncertainty for the energy market with policies concentrating on reducing emissions through a number of measures related to financial and fiscal instruments. (OPEC 2017. World Oil Outlook 2040).

The U.S. Energy Information Administration presents natural gas as a proportionately clean burning fossil fuel, although exploration, drilling and production have direct impacts on the environment, in addition to the fact that natural gas consists mainly of methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Leaks from natural gas-related activities such as pipelines are causing toxic anthropogenic methane emissions. (eia 2017). Despite of the many environmental and health risks related to fossil fuels such as natural gas, the global energy market will continue to depend on these. The OPEC projects that oil and gas combined will supply for more than 50% of global energy needs between 2015-2040. Gas alone is estimated to have a share of 29% in OECD, 20.8% in developing countries, and 45.4% in Eurasia in 2040. In China, gas is forecast to account for 10.6% of energy demand in 2040, while coal is expected to drop down to 48.6% from 64.3% in 2015. (OPEC 2017).

The OPEC estimates that the highest growth in gas demand in the OECD region will be in OECD America, recognizing key influences related to the overall demand of natural gas and its dependency on multiple critical factors including gas supplies, competition,  regulations, and pricing.

For instance in Finland, the national Energy Authority reports that “The Finnish natural gas market has been under sector-specific regulatory supervision since the assertion of the Natural Gas Market Act in August 2000”. The natural gas market in Finland has currently no competition, with 100% of the natural gas is being imported through one pipeline from Russia and traded on the Finnish market by one single company. In Finland, the demand for natural gas has been in decline for several reasons, with natural gas accounting for some eight (8%) of total generation fuel mix in 2014, with the baseline for energy demand being market-based. (energy authority Ref: 1842/601/2015/; Finnish Energy 2017).

 

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Agricultural Manure and Global Methane Emissions

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While enteric fermentation alone accounts for around a third of all anthropogenic methane emissions worldwide, agricultural manure accounts for another four per cent (4%), according to statistics published by GMI, the Global Methane Initiative, in 2010. In one of my previous posts, Enteric Fermentation Largest Single Source of Global Methane Emissions, I have discussed enteric fermentation and its role in global methane emissions. Unless familiar with greenhouse gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change, one may be surprised at the fact that animal farming is the major cause for human-caused methane emissions worldwide.

Will this be the beginning of the end of animal farming? In order to gain a broader view upon agriculture and animal farming, it may be beneficial to learn about and to understand the beginning and the history of both agriculture and animal farming, along with how these have developed in the past thousands and hundreds of years, up to the past century, the past decades, current developments and future trends. Although animal farming, the domestication and breeding of animals, and agriculture have been present for centuries already, there are differences between cultures, geographies and techniques. Agricultural science, according to for instance National Geography Society, has taken rapid leaps in productivity in the past decades because new sources of energy and power.

Today, in a world where much of animal farming has been industrialized, the ethics of animal farming is being questioned by a growing amount of people. While many animal farmers are struggling in order to make their business lucrative, or even to make ends meet, millions of people worldwide are against animal farming, finding animal farming the worst crime in history as stated in The Guardian´s article from September 25th, 2015: Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history.

While having no trouble buying meat products in supermarkets, many people today are in fact completely completely estranged with the reality of animal farming. If people were to see what actually takes place on many animal farms, their perceptions would perhaps change, or at least be impacted. For instance in Finland, currently almost half of human excrement today ends up as fertilizers in the agricultural sector, something that is strongly opposed by the food industry. There are of course restrictions both in Finland and in the European Union for the amounts of organic matters that may be legally used as fertilizers for growing crops. Nevertheless, the food industry is worried that traces of drugs, medicines, and even plastics may end up as fertilizers. Now imagine that animals are being fed with crops grown on lands where human excrement is being used as a fertilizer. Ultimately, this is a cycle where we end up consuming and eating everything that we so to say put out there. The more toxins at hand in our atmosphere, the more toxins in our soils, and in our bodies.

Methane emissions from enteric fermentation are significant, and these have an impact on our environment, our climate, and on ourselves. Although it is impossible to stop animal farming, there are ways of improving and affecting the amount of methane emissions being released through animal farming and enteric fermentation. Many consumers today also choose to leave away animal products from their lives (vegans). Others choose to buy organically produced animal products. We can all make an impact: as consumers, as farmers, and as policy-makers. There is not one single stakeholder in the supply chain that could not influence the future of animal farming, and the agricultural industry.

Learn more by watching Fertcare´s video “Managing nitrious oxide emissions from soil & fertilizer”:

 

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Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

What Are Stationary and Mobile Methane Sources?

Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020
Estimated Global Methane Emissions 2020

Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which today accounts for at least a quarter of all anthropogenic climate change, has many different sources. The largest human-caused methane source is enteric fermentation, the digestive process in the animal farming industry, followed by oil and gas production, landfills, rice cultivation, wastewater, other agricultural sources, coal mining, agricultural manure, biomass, and stationary and mobile sources of anthropogenic methane emissions.

Stationary and mobile sources of methane being released into Earth’s atmosphere through human activity refers to combustion practices, with these accounting for an estimated one percent of other than natural methane activity on Earth. It is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels and organic matter in order to transform these into energy and heat.

According to the GMI (Global Methane Initiative), which is part of the United States Environmental Protection Agency EPA, there will be a 15% increase of human-caused methane emissions by 2020. Moreover, according to EPA/GMI, methane mitigation (projects) include many benefits for the overall (global) environment, not only in terms of reducing excess odors, but also in terms of minimizing anthropogenic methane emissions which are at a large scale responsible for the greenhouse effect and climate change on Earth since industrialization.

 

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Methane Emissions From Biomass Production

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Although biomass is currently being classified as a renewable energy source, it accounts for some  3% (three per cent) of total global methane emissions (with methane being a powerful greenhouse gas and anthropogenic methane emissions being known for causing Earth´s climate to warm). According to Vattenfall, one of the largest European retailers for electricty and fully owned (100%) by the Swedish state, biomass is at this time the largest single renewable energy source in the European Union.

Biomass and waste currently account for 2/3 (two-thirds) of renewable energy production worldwide, stated by Vattenfall. The state of Sweden has learned how to utilize waste to such an extent that it today is obliged to IMPORT waste in order to keep up with its (biomass) energy production. What a genius idea to turn waste into energy! Of course, the most optimal solution would be not to create any waste at all, but at the current state of the world, many countries are facing problems with for instance recycling, not to mention how these countries manage waste. Why destroy the environment and our soils by dumping all kinds of waste to landfills without any recycling, when there are much better options, such as biomass production and recycling available?

These are not only questions of environmental or human well-being, but also important issues concerning recycling, waste management, human health, animal health, planetary health, and the creation of sustainable business models and lucrative income for societies around the globe. Of course, biomass can not be created from any kind of waste. Today, biomass is being created and used mainly in countries focused on forest industries, and agriculture, whereby waste from these can be utilized to produce biomass energy from (renewable) sources.

Although biomass is today regarded to be a renewable energy source, and definitely more environmentally friendly than for instance coal, gas and oil production, the production of biomass involves both agriculture and forestry. If other renewable source of energy are at hand, there should be no need to excessively cut down forests or grow crops in order to produce biomass, if and when there are more environmentally friendly options available.

It is estimated that the demand for biomass will at least double in the upcoming decades, with scenarios up to 2050. According to the World Energy Council´s report World Energy Resources – Bioenergy | 2016, bioenergy currently accounts for 10% of total global energy supply, with biofuels being a sustainable option in the replacement of oil dependency. Moreover, with growing concerns for environmental well-being even in terms of biomass production, bioenergy is framed by sustainability standards such as ISO, only to mention one of many. The World Energy Council states that the use of waste and residues as raw material to produce bioenergy is most optimal.

Following video, “What is Biomass”, published by FairEnergy, briefly explains what biomass (production) is:

 

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Enteric Fermentation Largest Single Source of Global Methane Emissions

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Why is the amount of people worldwide who decide to go either vegetarian or vegan constantly growing? In the United States alone, the number of vegans has grown by 500% in a few years time only. The reasons for vegetarianism and veganism are many: some people simply do not like the taste of meat, others may suffer from a fish intolerance or allergy. A lot of people do not want to harm animals, and find it cruel to grow animals just in order to slaughter them and consume them. Among the many vegans I have personally met, one of the main reasons for their decision to cut out any animal products, including eggs and dairy, from their diets, is since they have found it improve their health and well-being.

Despite of the many dietary suggestions given to us by a number of experts, every individual who can afford buying and choosing their diet in the first place should be his or her own best expert. Unfortunately this is also not true most of the time since more and more people on our planet suffer from excess weight due to unhealthy consumption habits, while on the other side of the coin, millions of people go hungry and are malnourished due to lack of access to many-sided, nutrient-rich food. For those who can afford consuming meat products, dietitians usually state that (red) meat products contain all the necessary amino acids which are key ingredients of protein and our bodies capacity to build and maintain muscle tissue, while vegans especially have to make an extra effort to access all the necessary amino acids that are essential building stones of the protein our bodies need. Otherwise, human beings actually have no real need to consume meat or seafood. Even vegans can choose plant-based products with all the necessary amino acids (and, proteins). It is also a fact that consuming proteins in excess will lead to these being stored as fat (lipids) in our bodies. Thus, a balanced and healthy diet is always key to our overall well-being.

A major reason to choose veganism (or, vegetarianism) today is climate-related. Enteric fermentation, the digestive process of livestock, is the largest single emitter of anthropogenic methane emissions on a global scale. Around one-third of all human-caused methane emissions worldwide stems from enteric fermentation, predominantly from cattle. Every time we choose to consume meat, we contribute to an increase in global greenhouse emissions (methane). It is also questionable how much sense it makes to grow crops in order to feed animals that human beings will slaughter and consume, contributing at least twice as much to an increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.

The FAO (Food And Agriculture Organization of The United Nations) published “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock – A Global Assessment Of Emissions And Mitigation Opportunities” in 2013. Access the PDF version of the publication here. The report is a compact global assessment of GHG emissions stemming from livestock supply chains with a discussion about research methodology, and dividing the study into clear chapters and themes such as overall emissions, main sources of emissions, emissions by geographical region, emissions by species, mitigation (potential and practice) with case studies, concluding the report with a chapter on suggestions for policy-making.

Most of us can afford to make individual/personal choices of consumption, influencing decision-makers to create better and more sustainable policies. In a world faced with many problems such as hunger and malnutrition, climate change, and an increasing amount of population battling problems with overweight, individual choices are not always enough. According to FAO`s “Tackling Climate Change Through Livestock – A Global Assessment Of Emissions And Mitigation Opportunities”, it is possible to reduce emissions stemming from all species in all regions, but there is an urgent need for better policies. FAO states that tackling difficult problems can be made possible with the right policies, innovations and investments. It has to be understood that through the necessary measures taken, we are better equipped to deal with large-scale problems such as climate change and a rapidly growing world population. The report concludes that additional research and development is necessary, improving the measurement of emissions, and support from global initiatives focusing on livestock especially due to its complexity and size.

Learn more by watching FAO´s video “Climate change mitigation in the livestock sector: overall potential, options and case studies”:

 

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Climate Forcing Methane

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Referring to my previous posts about methane and its impacts on climate change and the environment;

Methane Release Poses Climate Risks

Climate Amplifier Methane

Methane is an Environmental Wildcard

methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which can be found naturally all around our planet. In addition, most human activities produce and release the invisible, odorless and tasteless greenhouse gas methane into Earth´s atmosphere, drastically increasing the greenhouse effect that is warming up our planet. The amount of methane in Earth´s atmosphere has never been as high as in the past 150 years, and this is due to industrialization.

The vast majority of anthropogenic methane release into Earth´s atmosphere is caused through agriculture and oil/gas production. Agriculture and animal farming, especially enteric fermentation, account directly for at least 50 per cent of all methane emissions (see figure below), followed by oil and gas with 20 per cent. Decreasing anthropogenic methane emissions through innovative and sustainable practices is thus necessary in order to stop our Earth´s climate from warming due to human activities. This can be accomplished through 1) improving and making current practices more efficient; 2) reducing/minimizing the usage of fossil fuels as energy sources 3) transforming agricultural and farming practices.

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When greenhouse gas emissions constantly increase in Earth´s atmosphere, these warm the climate especially fast in the Arctic region, which acts as a natural refrigerator on our planet. With a rapidly warming Arctic region (and, a warming Antarctica), more and more methane is being released into Earth´s atmosphere, accelerating the warming of Earth everywhere, not only in the Polar regions. Exactly how strongly additional methane and other greenhouse gas emissions will affect the warming of the Arctic (and, the whole world), is not known. Methane is being referred to as a climate amplifier and an environmental wild card since the increase of this powerful greenhouse gas in Earth´s atmosphere can present us with sudden and unexpected changes in our planet´s climate system. This is why methane emissions have to be investigated and studied carefully, and caution must be taken in its additional production.

According to the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), reducing the amount of methane release in all sectors involved leads to many benefits, including better protection of the environment, overall health factors, workplace safety where concerned, less pollution and cleaner air.

Learn more about climatic forcings by watching Middlebury Environmental Geology´s video “Climatic forcings and feedbacks (class 21-v2):

 

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Methane Release Poses Climate Risks

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Methane, a powerful chemical compound also known with the chemical symbol CH4, is at least 22 times as powerful a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide CO2. Methane can be found naturally everywhere on our planet. Due to methane´s attributions, it is commonly used for e.g. the production of energy. In fact, around two thirds of all methane sources on our planet today are anthropogenic, i.e. man-made, through the burning of fossil fuels. Methane, which today accounts for around 14 % (per cent) of total greenhouse gas emissions on Earth, is so powerful that it accounts for more than one third of all human-caused warming on our planet.

According to Global Methane Initiative, half of all methane emissions globally come from agriculture, coal mines, landfills, oil & natural gas systems and wastewater. The following chart, Estimated Global Anthropogenic Methane Emissions by Source 2010, shows the main methane sources through human activities worldwide, whereby rice cultivation alone accounts for 10% (per cent) of all methane released into Earth´s atmosphere. Enteric fermentation (animal farming) accounts for 29% of all methane emissions, biomass 3%, stationary and mobile 1%, agriculture (manure) 4%, coal mining 6%, landfills 11%, oil and gas 20%, wastewater 9% and other agriculture sources 7%.

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According to the Global Methane Initiative (GMI), there are many economic and inexpensive ways of reducing methane emissions worldwide. Not only do we have the possibility worldwide to transfer our economies into using sustainable, renewable sources of energy such as solar energy and wind energy, but to make overall production more efficient in terms of methane releases within already existing technologies in industries that account for all anthropogenic methane (and, other greenhouse gas) emissions.

Learn more about reducing methane emissions in oil and gas production by watching Climate & Clean Air Coalition´s video “Reducing Methane Emissions in Oil and Gas Production”:

 

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Climate Amplifier Methane

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In my previous post, Methane is an Environmental Wildcard, I wrote a short introduction to what methane is and how it affects our environment. The Arctic Institute is one of the organizations worldwide that has been conducting research upon methane and its impacts in the Arctic region. As a reminder, the Arctic region consists of all the areas upon Earth that are located above the Arctic circle, all the way to the North Pole. The Arctic region thus, includes parts of the United States, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia.

According to The Arctic Institute, with headquarters in Oslo, Norway, methane is the second most emitted greenhouse gas on our planet after carbon dioxide. The problem with methane emissions is that it is at least 22 times stronger than carbon dioxide, which makes it especially dangerous when released into Earth´s atmosphere. In addition, according to The Arctic Institute, most methane emissions are being released in geographical areas south of the Arctic region, but much of which end up IN the Arctic warming its climate faster.

The Arctic region itself is also a huge “storage room” for methane, which can be found under permafrost. When permafrost thaws, previously naturally stored methane reserves are released into our atmosphere, our soils and our oceans (and, other water sources), causing additional warming through a greenhouse effect. By now, everyone who has been following and reading my posts should be aware of what greenhouse gases are, and how they contribute to climate change and the rapid warming on our planet.

Greenhouse gases are natural to a certain extent on our planet, but with the rate they have been released through human activities into Earth´s atmosphere in the past one hundred years only, has drastically increased the greenhouse effect and the warming of our planet. This is why we have no other option than to transform our local/global economies into sustainable solutions. Sustainability means that we find completely new, fossil-free (free from the usage of coal, gas, and oil as energy sources) means of energy production, something that has been widely understood in many parts and countries in our world already.

Texas, which has always been known as an oil-producing state in the U.S.A., has since long transformed its energy production to using for instance solar energy and wind energy. China is doing the same, in addition to China investing immense amounts of money into the African continent with new solar energy plants. The United Arab Emirates is also investing heavily into renewable energy sources, as are Denmark and Sweden. In short, we have many options regarding renewable energy sources: solar energy, wind energy, ocean energy. We could easily provide the whole world with solar energy only, if we just wanted to. The need for environmentally damaging and harmful sources of energy, including dams, nuclear plants, oil drilling, gas drilling and coal burning will become less and less attractive. The sooner the better. We deserve to create and to live on a healthy planet, with clean air, healthy water sources (lakes, rivers, oceans), and healthy soils. A healthy, pollution-free environment is a basic human right, for every citizen on our planet.

Learn more about the Arctic region, the Arctic Sea and methane by watching Climate State´s video “Methane in the East Siberian Arctic Shelf (2017)”:

 

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Methane is an Environmental Wildcard

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What does The Arctic Institute mean by methane being an environmental wildcard in climate change risk assessments? Should we call The Arctic Institute and ask, or perhaps find out more about methane by ourselves? We can do both, but let us start by finding out more through some research about methane.

According to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), methane is one of the greenhouse gases that pollutes our global environment. In the short-term, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In the long run, methane is at least 22 times stronger as a greenhouse gas in comparison to carbon dioxide.

The chemical compound methane (CH4 ) is a powerful greenhouse gas and source of energy, which can be found naturally below ground and under the sea floor. At room temperature methane is colorless, odorless and nontoxic, but may as an extremely flammable gas become explosive when mixed with air. Methane is a powerful energy source, which is why it has become so appealing to some energy markets. The risks of methane, however, may exceed its benefits. The usage of methane in energy production equals the usage of yet another fossil fuel, which have been proved to cause the greenhouse effect that is currently warming our planet so rapidly. Especially in the Arctic region, according to e.g. mother nature network, methane causes rapid warming and contributes strongly to climate change and glaciers melting.

Learn more about methane and its impacts on our climate by watching Environmental Defense Fund´s video “Methane – The other important greenhouse gas”:

 

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What Are Thawing Permafrost Risks?

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If you read my previous post, Thawing Permafrost A Huge Risk, you are already at least one step closer to understanding what the risks of thawing permafrost in the Arctic region are. In short, thawing permafrost gives even the most knowledgeable climate scientists and environmental experts a reason to scratch their heads.

Who knows for sure what the consequences of thawing permafrost will be? It is not the first time in the history of mankind that we are faced with completely new problems, requiring for us to find completely new solutions to solve these. Natural warming of Earth´s climate is one thing, but what we have accomplished as human beings within only one century is something that we can only blame ourselves for. It is a proven fact that since the Industrial Revolution, climate change and the warming of our planet has been man-made. Thus, in order to stop this development of anthropogenic climate change, us human beings are responsible for taking necessary actions to stop emitting toxic pollutants, including greenhouse gases which are largely responsible for the climatic changes our Earth is today experiencing.

Do we have to wait until permafrost thaws further, and possibly experience its devastating consequences before we learn? Do we need more catastrophic climate change events and natural disasters before taking action? Do we want our atmosphere and the air we breathe, our lands, our oceans and other water sources to be further polluted with toxins, and the release of methane and other harmful greenhouse gases that destroy our planet?

If we want Earth to be habitable for future generations, the response must quite simply be NO to all of these questions.

We do not need climate catastrophes, environmental disasters, toxins, pollutants killing millions of people, animals and plants each year. We do not need to wait until it is too late to take action(s) to prevent the destruction of our home planet. We do not have to let all of this happen.

Learn more about the risks from permafrost thawing by watching YaleClimateConnections´s video “Permafrost: The Tipping Time Bomb”:

 

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