Global Emissions of Methane from Petroleum Sources
|Publication Date:||1 February 1992|
The analysis and interpretation of recent atmospheric, oceanographic, and earth sciences data suggests that significant changes in current global climate patterns may occur as a result of the accumulation of methane (CH4) and other greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere. The nature of area- or region-specific climate shifts are still uncertain with regard to type (e.g., temperature change, precipitation modification, change in frequency of severe storms, sea level fluctuations), magnitude, and timing. Given the probable destabilizing consequences of climate change to global socio-economic parameters, further studies are needed to estimate greenhouse gas emission rates and to develop emission reduction techniques.
Methane is hypothesized to contribute approximately 20 percent of the increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases that are potentially creating shifts in global climate patterns. Atmospheric CH4 concentrations have increased from Jess than 1 ppm in the mid-nineteenth century to nearly 1. 7 ppm in 1990. The current rate of increase in atmospheric CH4 concentration is about 15 ppb per year (Houghton et at., 1990). Total global emissions of CH4 are estimated to be on the order of 600 million tons 1 per year (Cicerone and Oremland, 1988). Fossil fuel production and consumption is thought to contribute approximately 90 million tons per year of CH4 emissions to the atmosphere (Cicerone and Oremland, 1988). A vast majority of these fossil fuel production-related emissions come from natural gas operations and from coal mining and processing. Estimates of global petroleum industry CH4 emissions have not been well documented in the literature, but could be important in continuing global climate change research.
The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that increases in C02, CH4, and other greenhouse gases will promote climate change (Houghton et al., 1990). The objective of this report is to present estimates of CH4 emissions from all segments of the global petroleum industry. These estimates are based on available data associated with individual petroleum industry segments. CH4 emission estimates for certain regions and/or industry segments that were calculated from incomplete or otherwise inadequate data are identified. For example, a lack. of data prevented the separation of the oil industry from the natural gas industry with respect to venting and flaring emissions associated with well drilling activities.
Due to the age of much of the data employed in this effort to estimate global CH4 emissions, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union are classified as communist block countries.
1 English short tons (2,000 lbs) are used throughout this document except where metric tons are explicitly identified.