EU softens methane emissions stance

The EU voted this week in favour of weakening a planned law to cut methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.

The move comes weeks after the EU pledged at the COP27 climate conference to do more to tackle the potent greenhouse gas.

The European Commission last year proposed legislation requiring oil and gas companies in Europe to find and fix methane leaks in their infrastructure. The law will be negotiated next year by EU countries, who approved their negotiating position on Monday (19 December).

Luxembourg energy minister Claude Turmes said he was stunned by the lack of ambition in the new position, which he voted against.

“Nobody understands how Europe, who is so committed to climate change, can come up with such a weak governmental position on methane,” Turmes told the meeting.

EU countries said companies should check their infrastructure 12 months after the law takes effect, and then carry out checks on numerous timelines.

For example, compressor stations and liquefied natural gas terminals would be surveyed every six months, valve stations every 12 months and transmission pipelines every two years.

Those rules would be far laxer than the quarterly checks for all infrastructure the European Commission originally proposed.

Alongside the United States, the EU leads the Global Methane Pledge of 150 countries aiming to cut methane emissions 30% by 2030.

The EU and other major oil and gas market participants also pledged at last month’s COP27 summit to do more to curb methane.

Other countries are already moving fast: Canada and Nigeria have moved ahead in recent weeks with methane regulations that are, in some cases, more ambitious than the EU’s.

The EU law would not apply to infrastructure abroad that transports gas into Europe. The EU imports more than 80% of its gas, and most methane emissions associated with that consumption occur abroad.

The bloc agreed, however, to assess after the law takes effect if it should be extended to imports – a condition sought by Germany.