Natural gas is primarily made up of methane that is released during the mining and distribution of fossil fuels. Today, oil and gas operations are the largest industrial source of methane in the world.
A 2015 study by the Rhodium Group found that the Oil & Gas Industry loses $30 billion each year from leaked or vented methane at oil and gas facilities.
A growing risk
The venting, leaking and flaring of methane is a major contributor to climate change. Methane is a greenhouse gas 80 times more damaging than carbon dioxide. The increased concentration of greenhouse gases raises temperatures and increases the likelihood of extreme weather.
Beyond climate change, methane pollution also affects public health. When leaked, methane emits toxins such as benzene, toluene, xylene and other smog-producing organic compounds.
An Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) study suggested that if the world were to cut 45 per cent of methane emissions by 2025 it would have the same short-term climate benefits as closing one-third of the world’s coal plants.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported the Oil & Gas Industry can feasibly reduce up to 75 per cent of its current methane emissions. In 2015 the ten producers that supply more than 15 per cent of the world’s natural gas announced they were actively monitoring and disclosing emissions data annually, a first step towards reducing methane. However the EDF has called for better measurement and reporting on global emissions.
To reduce the effect of releasing harmful emissions, oil and gas companies now regularly flare methane, which converts the gas into carbon dioxide and water vapour. Whilst flaring is less damaging to the environment than venting methane, it still represents a waste of valuable energy. According to the World Bank, 140 billion metric cubic meters of natural gas is flared at oil fields around the world – enough energy to provide power to Africa.
Measuring flare gas is crucial in reducing the environmental impact of methane emissions but it is one of the most challenging types of gas flow measurement. Fluenta’s ultrasonic flare gas meter provides accurate emissions information for reporting and helps companies to manage their gas flaring processes. While traditional industries have been slow to realise the potential in technology, the energy sector is finally understanding the role it can play in restricting environmental damage from oil and gas processes.
Learn more about the FGM 160 flare meter here.