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Lower 2020 oil and gas production meant methane emissions fell

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Oil and gas operations emitted just over 70 million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere in 2020, according to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA’s) latest edition of its annual Methane Tracker report.

Emissions of planet-warming methane fell last year as oil and gas production declined, but they were still equivalent to the European Union’s total carbon dioxide emissions. They were 10 percent lower than the estimate for 2019 amid production cuts and the introduction of new methane regulations.

“The task now for the oil and gas industry is to make sure that there is no resurgence in methane emissions, even as the world economy recovers, and that 2019 becomes their historical peak,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol. “Early action on methane emissions will be critical for avoiding the worst effects of climate change.”

Detecting methane emissions has been a challenge in the past because they are mostly caused by hard-to-detect leaks, but over the last few months new satellites have provided a way to identify large discharges.

Still, lower natural gas prices during 2020 made methane abatement less appealing. While that could change if natural gas prices rise, as they have done in recent weeks, regulatory action will be essential to tackle emissions, IEA said. For more information visit