Massive Potential to Reduce Methane Gas Emissions

Romania Among the Largest Emitters

New data from a scientific study coordinated by UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory, Utrecht University and the Environmental Defense Fund reveals that oil production in Romania likely emitted approximately 120 kilotons of methane in 2019. Romania is the EU’s second-largest oil and gas producer and ranks among the highest in reported annual methane emissions from the energy sector according to the 2022 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Data.

The authors found that the national inventory may have underestimated methane emissions by at least a factor of 2.5 that year. The wasted methane – the main component of natural gas – equals a financial loss of approximately 90 million euros[1] and could have powered around one million homes for an entire year[2].

The research, involving scientists from more than ten EU research institutions, shows the potential to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas industry through simple fixes: “Our findings show that Romania has a huge opportunity to slash methane emissions. With more frequent leak detection and repair and by stopping venting, the country could capture otherwise wasted gas, bring it to market, and protect our climate,” says Environmental Defense Fund scientist Daniel Zavala-Araiza. “But Romania is not a single case. Similar savings could be made by the industry in many places.”

Methane from fossil fuel operations, agriculture, and other industries causes roughly 30% of today’s global warming. Cutting these emissions is the fastest way to slow the rate of warming, as we continue to seek a just transition to cleaner energy sources.

“This study could have a large climate impact, because the measurements show precisely how oil and gas operators can mitigate their methane emissions,” says Thomas Röckmann, one of the lead authors of the study.

“These findings underscore the significant potential for methane reduction in the energy sector – one of the most achievable climate actions – both within the EU and globally,” says Flavia Sollazzo, Senior Director for Energy Transition at Environmental Defense Fund Europe. “They also emphasize the need for robust EU regulation and the feasibility of the provisions under discussion in the EU methane regulation. We must set an example by swiftly reducing these emissions and addressing the substantial external EU methane footprint through a performance standard for imports.”

This research is part of the many ongoing scientific efforts to improve the understanding of methane emissions from global oil and gas infrastructure. Technology to accurately measure methane exists, but policies are lagging in implementing rules that effectively mitigate the climate pollutant.

“This study confirms the importance of robust, transparent, actionable data to drive deep reductions in methane emissions as operators and government representatives now have the right information to target mitigation actions. We are encouraged by the actions the Romanian government and European Commissions are taking on this front, and we hope to see Romania’s oil and gas operators continue to embrace UNEP’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0’s reporting and mitigation standard. We look forward to continuing working with the Romanian government and industrial actors to ensure that their commitments turn into credible reductions in the short term,” said Manfredi Caltagirone, Head of UNEP International Methane Emissions Observatory.


About UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory

UNEP’s International Methane Emissions Observatory collects, reconciles, and integrates empirically based near real-time methane emissions data, including soon satellite data from MethaneSAT, to provide unprecedented transparency and data to help focus efforts to reduce methane emissions and significantly contribute to keeping our rising temperatures in check.


About Environmental Defense Fund

One of the world’s leading international nonprofit organizations, Environmental Defense Fund creates transformational solutions to the most serious environmental problems. To do so, EDF links science, economics, law, and innovative private-sector partnerships. With more than 3 million members and activists and offices in the United States, China, India, Mexico, Indonesia, and the European Union, EDF’s scientists, economists, attorneys, and policy experts are working in 28 countries and across the EU to turn their solutions into action.

Environmental Defense Fund Europe is a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, incorporated in England and Wales and in the Netherlands.

[1] Assuming 90% methane composition and a conversion factor of 0.671 kg/m3, the 120 ktons CH4 (range: 79 – 180 ktons) can be translated into roughly 200 Mm3 (130 – 300 Mm3) of natural gas. Using the average TTF gas price in 2023 (January-June) of approximately 44€/MWh or 0.46€/m3, the study ends up with price value of 90 M€ (60 M€ – 140 M€).


[2] Assuming a currently average household electricity consumption of 2500 kWh, the 120 kt of vented gas has the potential to provide power to approximately 770,000 households. Using a more conservative estimate of 2000 kWh for previous years, then the figure goes close to 1 million households – this is enough to power all homes in Bucharest.

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