Supplying natural gas and managing methane

As we increase gas in our portfolio, we are taking action to reduce methane emissions

We believe natural gas is a vital lower carbon energy source. It produces about half as much greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as coal when burned to generate power and it can serve as a back-up for intermittent renewable energy sources.

In the US, the growing use of shale gas has had a significant impact on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, which have fallen back to 1990s levels.

A growing natural gas portfolio

Around half of BP’s upstream portfolio is currently natural gas.

  • We are one of the top 10 natural gas producers in the US, with operations in five states.
  • We have several new big gas projects coming onstream in the next few years including Khazzan in Oman, West Nile Delta and Zohr in Egypt, Juniper in Trinidad, and the Southern Gas Corridor from the Caspian Sea to Europe.
  • We acquired interests in gas exploration blocks in Mauritania and Senegal in 2016.

Methane - the issue

Minimizing methane emissions from gas production is essential to maximize the role of gas in a lower carbon world.

Methane has a strong warming effect on the climate - trapping substantially more heat than CO2. But it has a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere because it breaks down more rapidly once it is released. The global warming potential of methane is at least 84 times greater than CO2 over a 20-year period. That potential decreases to around 25 times greater when calculated over a 100-year period - the time frame most governments and companies use to assess its impact.

Methane emissions can occur along the gas supply chain - that includes flaring and venting, to leaks from equipment in gas production through to the delivery of gas to customers. We are working with Imperial College London through the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative to compare GHG and air emissions across different gas and coal supply chains to identify the most effective ways to reduce GHG emissions. Our life cycle analysis of the liquefied natural gas from our Tangguh plant in Indonesia shows that the GHG emissions from that gas are at least 50% lower than coal.

Methane emissions across the gas supply chain

Improving data reliability

We are working to build a more reliable and complete picture of methane - one that provides a set of global data categorized by different types of gas fields and operations. For example, through the Climate and Clean Air Coalition’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership, we are deepening our industry’s understanding of the core sources that account for the bulk of methane emissions in upstream operations. This will help to inform actions we can take to reduce emissions.

All this activity builds on the work we have carried out over the past 15 years to estimate methane emissions from our own operations. We calculate that our methane intensity - that is, methane emissions as a percentage of marketed gas production - is around 0.2%.

In 2015 and 2016 we conducted detailed assessments of many of our upstream operations to fine tune our estimates. As this work progresses, we will continue to refine our data on methane emissions and intensity.

Reducing emissions

We believe methane emissions from gas developments can be economically and technically controlled.

At our Khazzan site in Oman we have built a central processing facility that reduces the need for processing equipment at each individual well site, which can be additional sources of methane emissions in gas production.

In the US we use a process called green completions at our gas operations. This process captures natural gas that would otherwise be flared or vented during the completion and commissioning of wells. Another technique to reduce methane emissions is to replace gas-driven pneumatic equipment. For example, at our San Juan operations, we use solar energy to power equipment and that has led to a reduction in methane emissions and gas that would otherwise be vented.

We have complex operational sites and pipelines that can stretch through hundreds of miles of difficult terrain. Depending on the location, we use infrared cameras, centralized monitoring stations, sniffer dogs (see Managing our environmental and social impacts), or other techniques to detect gas leaks.

We inspect our major operations for leaks at least annually - and often more frequently depending on the technique used.

Our infrared cameras have been a valuable addition to the way we manage our methane emissions. The technology supplements our existing gas detection equipment, so we can identify and intervene on small seeps before they become more hazardous gas leaks. They’ve proved so successful that we are now looking to share our experiences with our upstream sites around the world.
Fraser Buchan, health and safety leader, North Sea operations, BP

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