LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell announced on Monday plans to limit leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, across its oil and gas operations as it tries to sharply curb carbon emissions.
Shell aims to maintain methane emissions below 0.2 percent of its total oil and gas production by 2025, it said in a statement, joining British rival BP, which last year set a similar goal. Larger rival Exxon Mobil announced in May plans to reduce methane emissions by 15 percent by 2020.
Methane is released into the atmosphere mostly from the burning of excess gas, known as flaring, as well as through leaks in gas infrastructure such as wells, pumps and pipelines.
The gas has a bigger greenhouse impact than carbon dioxide, even though the oil and gas industry produces less methane and the gas also has a shorter lifetime.
The methane target will be measured against a baseline leak rate, which is currently estimated at range from 0.01 percent to 0.8 percent across the company’s oil and gas assets, it said.
The Anglo-Dutch company set out last year an ambitious plan to halve its carbon emissions by 2050, far exceeding rivals. Investors have called on the company to set binding targets to reach those goals.
Climate change and emissions, caused by burning fossil fuels, have moved to the forefront of discussions between energy companies and investors since the signing of the 2015 U.N.-backed Paris climate agreement that seeks to curb emissions to zero by the end of the century in order to limit global warming.
“The race to near-zero methane emissions is on,” said Ben Ratner, director at Environmental Defense Fund, U.S-based non-profit climate advocacy.
“Company leadership on methane does not stop with setting targets. Follow through with good data and transparency are vital.”
Shell’s methane emissions reached 123,000 tonnes last year, accounting for around 5 percent of its total greenhouse gas emissions, according to its website.
Reporting by Ron Bousso; Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter