EU looks to methane rules as it seeks rapid reductions in emissions

The European Union has announced a range of sweeping reforms designed to cut methane emissions.

With the start of the COP28 Sumit in the UAE at the end of the month the EU has announced a provisional agreement between the European Parliament and Council on a new EU Regulation to reduce energy sector methane emissions in Europe and in its global supply chains.

The new agreement will oblige the fossil gas, oil and coal industry to properly measure, monitor, report and verify their methane emissions “according to the highest monitoring standards” and take action to reduce them.

“Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas – the second biggest contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide (CO2) – and is also a potent air pollutant,” The EU stated. “This agreement is therefore crucial to delivering the European Green Deal and reducing our net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030.”

“Tackling methane emissions is a win-win policy. It is good for our planet and good for consumers,” Maroš Šefčovič, (pic) Executive Vice-President for European Green deal, Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight said. “I look forward to working with the European and international energy industry to ensure that these rules are quickly and effectively implemented.”

The new agreement requires operators to report regularly to the competent authorities about quantification and measurements of methane emissions at source level, including for non-operated assets.

It obliges oil and gas companies to carry out regular surveys of their equipment to detect and repair methane leaks on the EU territory within specific deadlines. It will ban routine venting and flaring by the oil and gas sectors and restricts non-routine venting and flaring to unavoidable circumstances, for example for safety reasons or in case of equipment malfunction.

The agreement limits venting from thermal coal mines from 2027, with stricter conditions kicking in after 2031, and requires companies in the oil, gas and coal sectors to carry out an inventory of closed, inactive, plugged and abandoned assets, such as wells and mines, to monitor their emissions and to adopt a plan to mitigate these emissions “as soon as possible”.

The EU imports a large share of the oil, gas and coal it consumes. It added the regulations will also tackle the methane emissions related to these imports.

It establishes a methane transparency database where data on methane emissions reported by importers and EU operators will be made available to the public.

The Commission will establish methane performance profiles of countries and companies to allow importers to make “informed choices” on their energy imports. It will also put in place a global methane emitters monitoring tool and a rapid alert mechanism for super-emitting events, with information on the magnitude, recurrence and location of high methane-emitting sources both within and outside the EU. As part of this tool, the Commission will be able to request prompt information on action to address these leaks by the countries concerned.

As of January 2027, the EU will require that new import contracts for oil, gas and coal can be only concluded if the same monitoring, reporting and verification obligations are applied by exporters as for EU producers. The Regulation will set out a methane intensity methodology and maximum levels to be met for new contracts for oil, gas and coal.

“This landmark agreement will allow us to seriously tackle the energy sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in the EU and beyond,” Kadri Simson, EU Commissioner for Energy

explained. “This first-of-its-kind regulation enables the EU to curb methane emissions in a cost-effective manner, and address venting and flaring of gas, which make economically and environmentally little sense. This will benefit our planet and will also avoid wasted resources in tight global gas markets.”

Wopke Hoekstra, Commissioner for Climate Action  added: “As we head to COP28, it is great news that the EU has one more law to demonstrate to our international partners that we are delivering on our climate targets. Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, and it plays an important role in global warming. We now have the tools to reduce it more quickly and continue our work towards becoming the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.”