After more than two years of work, the Joe Biden administration announced on Saturday December 2 its final regulations aimed at reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas industry, a crucial step in achieving its commitments regarding this powerful gas Greenhouse. The announcement was made by the American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Dubai, where COP28, the major annual United Nations climate summit, is being held.
The issue of methane, the biggest contributor to climate change after CO2, has an important place this year. China, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates are jointly organizing a summit on methane and other greenhouse gases besides CO2 on Saturday. The United States had already announced proposed regulations on the subject in 2021 and 2022. The EPA then received “more than a million” public comments, and said it had consulted a large number of stakeholders.
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The final regulations should prevent 58 million tonnes of methane emissions between 2024 and 2038, according to the American agency. This represents the equivalent of 1.5 billion tonnes of CO2, or “almost as much” as the CO2 emitted by the American energy sector in 2021. Concretely, these reductions are achieved, for example, by eliminating gas flaring on new installations. , or by requiring companies to monitor methane leaks, using “low-cost and innovative” technologies.
The EPA also encourages the use of technologies such as leak detection using satellite observations. The regulations include a program for “super emitters,” which studies show account for nearly half of the sector’s methane emissions. Approved third parties will be responsible for notifying the EPA of abnormal emissions, and the agency will then ask the responsible company to remedy them.
Finally, American states will have two years to submit their plan to reduce these emissions to the EPA. In total, methane emissions from the sector anticipated for 2038 without any action taken will be reduced by 80% thanks to this regulation, estimates the American agency.
Measures also concern other pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds or benzene. This pollution particularly affects minorities and low-income people, who live closer to power plants. “For far too long, oil and gas companies have been allowed to spew methane and other pollutants dangerous to health without limits,” responded Julie McNamara of the “Union of Concerned Scientists” in a statement. welcoming that this “regulatory gap” has been filled.
According to her, this regulation represents “an important contribution” to the “Global methane pledge” which was launched in 2021 by the European Union and the United States, with the aim of reducing global emissions. methane by 30% by 2030 compared to 2020.