EU to clamp down on domestic methane emissions from oil and gas

  • Methane second-biggest cause of climate change, after CO2
  • EU to require oil and gas firms to find and fix leaks
  • Clampdown does not cover international supply chains

BRUSSELS, Dec 15 (Reuters) - EU policymakers proposed legislation on Wednesday to make oil and gas companies report their domestic methane emissions and fix leaks of the potent greenhouse gas, but companies abroad that supply most of Europe's fossil fuels will be largely untouched.

Methane is the second biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide and has a far higher warming effect, meaning deep cuts in global methane emissions are needed this decade to avert disastrous climate change. It is emitted from sources including leaky fossil fuel infrastructure, farming and landfill sites.

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed regulations that would require oil and gas operators to report the methane emissions - down to the original source of the emissions - of their installations in the European Union two years after the regulation takes effect.

They would need to provide estimates of their emissions by end of the first year.

Firms would also have to check their infrastructure for methane leaks every three months, starting six months after the regulation takes effect and to repair leaks within five days. Infrared cameras and drones are among the technologies used to detect methane emissions.

In the EU, companies would be banned from routine flaring, when methane is intentionally burned off, and venting, when unwanted methane is released into the atmosphere, although there would be some exceptions, such as during repairs.

The proposed rules do not apply to the infrastructure that transports gas into the EU from abroad, despite demands from some investors, lawmakers and campaigners that they should. read more

The EU imports 90% of the fossil gas it consumes and 97% of its oil. Most methane emissions associated with that consumption occur abroad in countries such as Russia, the EU's biggest gas supplier.

The proposal said the EU would form a database to track whether countries that supply its fossil fuels regulate or report their methane emissions.

European Parliament and EU countries must negotiate and approve the proposed legislation. Parliament in October called for EU methane regulations also to cover international fossil fuel supply chains. read more

EU Green lawmaker Jutta Paulus said that not regulating imports would send a "terrible signal" after the EU had called for international action on methane.

The EU and United States led a pledge at the COP26 UN climate summit last month, with more than 100 countries voluntarily committing to cut methane emissions 30% by 2030.

Reporting by Kate Abnett; editing by Barbara Lewis and Philip Blenkinsop

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