Probably the world’s largest methane leak was discovered at a coal mine in Russia, which released the equivalent of carbon dioxide from five coal-fired power plants.
About 90 tonnes per hour of methane was being released from the mine in January, when the gas was first traced to its source, according to data from GHGSat, a commercial satellite monitoring company based in Canada. Maintained over the course of a year, this would produce enough natural gas to power 2.4 million homes.
More recently, the mine appears to be leaking at a lower rate, about a third of the highest rate recorded in January, but the leak was believed to have been active for at least six months before the January survey.
The leak, which comes from the Raspadskaya mine in Kemerovo oblast, Russia’s largest coal mine, is about 50% larger than any other leak seen by GHGSat since its global satellite monitoring began in 2016. The company thinks it’s more important than any leak. yet traced to a single source.
Brody Wight, director of energy, landfills and mines at GHGSat, said methane was an often overlooked side effect of coal mining that added to the climate impact of burning coal. Raspadskaya’s leak would add about 25% to greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal produced by the mine, he estimated.
“We are seeing an increase in methane from this site in general, which could be the result of an increase in coal production, linked to global trends in coal use,” he said.
Russia is one of the world’s largest sources of methane from fossil fuel extraction. The country’s gas infrastructure, including production facilities and pipelines, is notoriously leaky despite calls on the government to take action.
Paul Bledsoe, former adviser to Bill Clinton in the White House and now at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington DC, said: “Deep methane reduction is the only sure way to limit near-term temperatures and prevent climate change. out of control, but each month brings new evidence that Russia is hiding the most massive and destructive methane leaks in the world. Putin is desperately hiding these huge emissions so he can continue to profit from Russian coal, oil and gas sales and fund his war regime. But those nations like China that continue to buy Putin’s oil and gas are also encouraging his climate and war criminality.
All underground coal mines produce methane, which can cause explosions if it builds up. An explosion at the Raspadskaya mine in 2010 killed 66 people.
Venting of methane can be done for safety reasons. However, there are ways to capture methane when it is produced at a high rate, or to oxidize it out, so that it does less damage to the climate.
Methane is about 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, although it degrades in the atmosphere in about 20 years. In February, the International Energy Agency warned that most countries were underreporting their methane emissions and that the true amounts dumped into the atmosphere were far greater than previously thought.
Recent studies have shown that reducing methane could be one of the fastest ways to contain global temperature rise, and that drastic reductions could now prevent an increase of around 0.25°C in here 2050.
Durwood Zaelke, president of the Washington-based Institute for Governance, said Raspadskaya’s leak showed the urgent need for action. “It is essential to set up a comprehensive satellite monitoring system for methane. We also need to deploy a system of incentives and penalties that can address these emissions, focusing first on the super emitters,” he said.
The IEA also found that at current high gas prices, the cost of capturing methane was much lower than the value of using it or selling it as a fuel source, which should prompt companies and governments to capture the gas rather than venting or burning it. .
At the UN Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow last November, more than 100 countries agreed to cut their methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. Russia was not one of them, however.
GHGSat said it measured 13 separate methane plumes, ranging in size from 658 to 17,994 kg per hour, from the mine. The discovery was made on January 22, but the company was slow to verify its findings and contact the mine operator, who did not respond.
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