For the second year running, bp has been recognized by the United Nations Environment Programme for its plans to measure and reduce methane emissions.
The award of gold status comes from the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership (OGMP) 2.0, a voluntary initiative launched by the UNEP that is designed to improve the reporting accuracy and transparency of anthropogenic methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The gold status, which bp first received in 2021, recognizes the work of many teams – both within the company and involving some of our many partners.
It covers bp’s operated and non-operated joint venture operations and sets out ambitious measurement and reconciliation requirements – such as site-level measurement from drones, aircraft, satellites, and fixed cameras – as well as the need to deliver those in a timely fashion.
Getting to and maintaining gold was not easy and only achieved due to the efforts of numerous teams across bp. “It was gold or nothing – there’s no silver,” says Sonna, who has worked for more than 20 years in a variety of GHG roles at bp, representing the company on a number of external climate-related initiatives, including the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), the Methane Guiding Principles (MGP), and the UN-led OGMP.
“UNEP effectively said: ‘Show us the evidence that you’ve got robust and believable plans to get you there.’ That’s what they were judging us on,” he says.
The OGMP initiative has gathered momentum, says Sonna. “When bp joined, there were just 10 member companies. Now, more than 85 have signed up, so retaining the gold standard is particularly rewarding.”
Fuzzy Bitar, bp SVP, HSE & Carbon
Even though natural gas has an important role to play in developing a lower carbon energy system, when methane is emitted into the atmosphere unburnt, it is more than 80 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year time span, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. However, as methane does not persist in the atmosphere – its atmospheric lifespan is a relatively short (10 to 12 years) – actions to cut methane emissions can have the most immediate reduction in the rate of warming.
“We have been in action on methane for many years and reduced our operational methane emissions, including through recent delivery of sustainable emissions reductions (SER). We need to do even more, but the signs are encouraging that the changes and leadership support are having a real impact,” says Sonna.
During the 2021 COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, UK, 103 countries signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% by the end of this decade.
And with COP27 under way in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, methane emissions are on the agenda again. Announcements include the launch of the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) – a data-driven, action-focused initiative by the the UNEP – and the US stepping up the delivery against the Global Methane Pledge.
There are two challenges in tackling methane – the first is the identification and quantification of emissions – where some important technology is in its infancy. The second is finding ways to reduce emissions – where there is a lot of work happening across industry. We’re playing an active part in both and took some important steps in 2020 that we are continuing to develop.
And we will work to influence our joint ventures to set their own methane intensity targets of 0.2%.
As part of our net zero ambition, bp’s Aim 4 is to install methane measurement equipment at all our existing major oil and gas processing sites by 2023, publish the data, and then drive a 50% reduction in this measured methane intensity of our operations. To support Aim 4, we also announced that we will work to influence our joint ventures to set their own methane intensity targets of 0.2%.
“People ask, why are we putting all this effort into methane reduction when it accounts for only around 4% of our GHG emissions?” says Sonna. “But that’s asking the wrong question. Half of bp’s oil and gas production is from natural gas and the case for gas in the energy transition is only supported if methane emissions from the entire gas value chain can be managed.”
bp has evolved a mix of reduction measures and advanced technology applications focused on achieving reductions across our key methane sources, including fugitive emissions, combustion and flaring; and on producing a greater proportion of our gas from lower-intensity operations. By the end of 2023, we aim to have rolled out a new measurement approach to relevant sites. The 2023 target is not a coincidence, says Sonna. “That’s not just a random date, it is all linked to the OGMP initiative. We knew from the outset what our three-year plan would need to be.”
“Both our awards of gold status build on years of activity within bp to reduce methane,” adds Fuzzy. “We’ve been working to reduce emissions from our own sites – through improving their design, deploying the latest technology, and moving to introduce continuous measurement. And we’re working closely with the rest of the industry to share knowledge and help raise standards. This work will help bp to deliver on what we told the world we would do.”
It’s an exciting time, with technologies to detect and measure methane evolving fast. A flexible approach to using different technologies allows us to move towards increased continuous site and source-level measurement systems as more advanced technology becomes available.
These technologies include gas cloud imaging, tested in the deserts of Oman at the Khazzan tight gas project, allowing constant site monitoring. We also have drones that live stream data, thanks to highly-advanced on-board sensors developed by NASA.
Video imaging spectral radiometry flare monitors use infrared images to measure how efficiently a flare consumes emissions.
“The one thing that has absolutely changed from five years ago is the technology,” says Sonna. “bpx [bp’s US onshore oil and gas business] is now flying aircraft that measures methane across the whole basin on a quarterly basis.”
More affordable technology is another bonus. “We are trialling a system with bpx to cover a series of well pads with technology that is a fraction of the cost of such systems a few years back and that will give 24/7 live detection,” he says.
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