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By: Adiel Chrissetia

On 29 September, CNN reported Nord Stream gas leaks massive amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. The cause of the Nord Stream leaks is currently still under investigation. Methane makes up 90% of natural gasses. This fact alerts us about the potential disruption to international efforts on climate change. Multiple researchers and investigators are trying to quantify the impact of this incident. The Danish Energy Agency reported that the emissions released approximately 778 million standard cubic meters of natural gas which amounts to greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 14.6 million tons of CO2 equivalent (CO2e). This number shows it is equivalent to 32% of annual Danish CO2 emissions in 2020. From this, we see how massive the impact is on the environment.

It should be mentioned that switching from using coal to natural gas aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as energy production by coal emits a larger amount of CO2. On the other hand, this has become a challenge to the natural gas system due to its methane leakage which reverses the climate impact mitigation if the rate of emissions is higher. The data from The U.S Environmental Protection Agency 2017 estimates that methane has been leaking around 401,000 metric tons per year from the distribution pipeline, metering, and regulation stations. Methane as a significant component of natural gas shares higher global atmospheric concentrations which are about 28 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in a 100-year timescale and more than 80 times more powerful over 20 years. Furthermore, it is also because of its isotopic signature. Methane molecules contain the heavier isotope carbon-13. Also, there are differences between methane generated by microbes which will have less carbon-13 than methane generated by heat and pressure inside the earth, which is released during fossil-fuel extraction.

The Nord Stream leak is not the first incident of natural gas pipeline leakage. In the US, there are over 2,600 gas pipeline leaks that released 26.6 billion cubic feet of fuel in total. Consequently, it is essential to develop an accurate quantification of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry to monitor the possibility of leakage as a way to distribute fuel on the way to a carbon-neutral future. Measuring precisely how much methane has been emitted takes time. Usually, atmospheric methane concentrations can be measured using a variety of modeling tools to estimate methane emissions from broad geographic areas (National Academic Press). Climate scientists urge that reducing methane emissions is a critical part of tackling climate change in the short term because the gas has such a strong warming effect when in the atmosphere.

There are various monitoring technologies using satellites, planes, and drones such as the leak detections program by optical gas imaging. This is used to mitigate fugitive emissions or leaks and provide cost-effective mitigation.

Again, the Nord Stream incident reminds us how we should continue to reduce the demand for the most polluting fossil fuel with renewable energy transition. The International Energy Agency shared that cutting off fossil fuels in energy production can reduce up to 45% of emissions. There is already an international commitment at COP26 in Glasgow, UK with more than 100 countries signing the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. From this we could see not only improving the technology side to tackle the methane emissions but also as an individual, we could take action for example by switching to solar panels for our source of energy at home. Because in the end, the solution is the real action that needs to be done at present and all the sectors together solve the challenge of reducing the world’s emissions.

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