Methane Protocols: International and Industry Initiatives


Jun 21, 2023

The oil and gas industry is steadily working toward reducing operational methane emissions as part of international efforts to slow down global warming, but there are no universal standards for evaluating and validating methane leaks and releases. In the absence of clear standards and reliable measurement tools and techniques, finding, prioritizing, and correcting methane emissions can be inefficient, ineffective, and expensive.

International Protocols

Researchers at the Colorado State University (CSU) Methane Emissions Program, led by Daniel Zimmerle, have teamed with TotalEnergies, and are conducting research with the CSU Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center, which performs emissions detection and test measurement modeling systems and safety research on pipeline leaks.

“There is a clear need for international engagement on methane measurement and reporting methods. It’s required if measurement results will be broadly accepted,” according to Zimmerle.

The CSU Energy Institute, TotalEnergies, and the industry- and DoE-funded Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center at CSU are collaborating with the goal of creating international protocols for methane emissions.

The team will use their facilities and expertise to develop:

  • Test protocols for accuracy, detection parameters, and operation constraints of greenhouse gas measurement methods
  • Methods of comparing greenhouse gas measurements (yearly) to individual data point measurements

Chief Technology Officer at TotalEnergies Marie-Noëlle Semeria said, “The reduction of methane emissions requires an accurate quantification of these emissions. Defining a protocol that certifies the accuracy of measurements and allows comparisons between equipment and continents is a must.”

TotalEnergies is pursuing steep methane emission reduction targets (per the Glasgow agreements) and has already cut operational methane emissions by 50% through decreased fugitive emissions, declines in venting/flaring, and facility design changes.

Industry Research Initiatives

An earlier CSU partnership (January 2023) is the Energy Emissions Modeling and Data Lab, a project with The University of Texas at Austin and the Colorado School of Mines. Sponsored primarily by the oil and gas industry. This $50 million initiative plans to improve greenhouse gas tracking and estimating in the oil and natural gas business. The partnership plans to use data and analysis to help organizations (public & private) create climate strategies based on data and to identify emissions reduction and verification options.

The project aims to establish transparent, timely, and reliable greenhouse gas emissions assessments of supply chains in the oil and gas industry and will offer education and training to help oil and gas operators and government agencies understand the measurement data and analysis tools. Their approach uses a mix of direct measurements and modeling to obtain accurate methane measurements.

Maximizing Impact

With methane standards and accurate measurement rapidly becoming reality, companies can prioritize solutions for sealing identified sources of fugitive emissions. Wellhead emissions represent one of the largest sources of fugitive methane emissions and recent innovations in downhole leak sealing technology now enables reliable, cost-effective remediation that produces an immediate environmental impact while reducing liability. BioSqueeze is a novel solution to permanently seal the most problematic methane leaks in oil and gas wells utilizing innovative biomineralization technology.