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Mexican oil and gas industry able to reduce more than half of methane gas emissions

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

An independent analysis conducted by energy research firm ICF International estimates that Mexico can cut more than half of its methane emissions from the oil and gas industry for less than MXN1/t of carbon dioxide equivalent. The research was commissioned by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), and the report co-released with the Mario Molina Center, led by the Chemistry Mexican Nobel Prize winner.

A large percentage of Mexico’s total methane emissions come from the oil and gas sector. ICF found a significant opportunity for Mexico to reduce these emissions if oil and gas companies use existing and simple, low cost measures, such as increased use of flares, low emitting valves and equipment monitors, to control for methane.

The costs of these reductions are small, adding less than MXN0.1/1000 ft3 of produced gas. In certain cases cost efficiencies are so high because controls pay for themselves over time through the sale of captured natural gas. Methane is the key constituent in natural gas and when it escapes from wells, pipelines, and other oil and gas equipment an otherwise saleable product is lost.

Methane is also a highly potent greenhouse gas that is much more powerful than carbon dioxide (CO2) in absorbing heat in the atmosphere, thus working quickly to intensify near-term warming trends. ICF also reports a reduction in conventional pollutants, along with the methane emissions from oil and gas activity that can harm public health and the environment at no extra costs.

“Effective climate policies need to include strategies that prioritise reducing both short lived greenhouse gases like methane as well as carbon dioxide,” said Mario Molina. “What we know about the behaviour of methane in the atmosphere makes this an urgent issue and can help us reduce the impact of these global warming emissions.

The Mexican federal government committed to reducing methane as part of its pledge to cut greenhouse gases 25% by 2030 in Mexico’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions submitted ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

“This analysis shows Mexico has enormous potential to continue its leadership on important climate issues and it can set and reach a 55% oil and gas methane reduction goal backed up by regulations and policies,” said Drew Nelson, Senior Manager from EDF. “The takeaway for Mexico from the ICF report is that the opportunities are large to curb these emissions from the oil and gas sector, while the costs to make significant climate progress are cheap.”

The Energy Reform passed in December 2013 by the Federal Government of Mexico represents two historic opportunities for the country. On one hand, as the Mexican authorities have pointed out, it will strengthen and modernise the energy industry and productive state enterprises. On the other hand, it is the right time for Mexico to avoid a large number of polluting effects, with the entry of private players in the industry.

“As Mexico transforms its energy sector and builds new pipelines, now is the time to ensure methane emissions from the oil and gas industry are reduced. If this doesn’t happen, then as the sector grows, so too will the methane emissions, which could undermine Mexico’s ability to meet its overall climate goals. We can work across North America to show leadership and ensure these reductions take place,” said Molina during the study presentation.

The study mentions that there are 100 categories of methane emissions in the oil and gas industry, and 21 of them represent more than 80% of the 2020 estimated emissions. Hence the reductions from these sources offer the opportunity for a higher level of general reductions.

To carry out the study, data was collected from different Mexican Government Agencies, such as the Mexican Ministry of Energy (SENER), Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex). Where no Mexican data existed, supplementary data from US studies was used.

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Adapted from press release by Rosalie Starling

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