Transmission pipeline operators have always implemented measures to minimize the risk of releases and mitigate their consequences. These measures encompass careful pipeline route selection, design, construction, operation, and maintenance, along with the deployment of automated monitoring and control systems. But Net Zero goals are driving major changes in the landscape of both public perception and regulation, which is in turn, fueling investment in improved pipeline infrastructure management on both sides of the Atlantic.
While proposed methane emission reduction regulations in the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) share common elements, variations may be found across the measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV) requirements, and leak detection and repair (LDAR) practices.
Looking specifically at the EU, which contributes 7% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 4-5% of global methane emissions, the number of national policies and measures has been increasing since 2015.
Over 2,200 policies and measures have been created across the three target sectors of agriculture, waste, and energy, which account for 53%, 26%, and 19% of EU methane emissions, respectively, according to the European Environment Agency.
The EU Methane Strategy and the proposed EU Methane Regulation, define methane emission measurement, reporting and mitigation requirements across these three sectors.
In May 2023, the EU Parliament adopted amendments to strengthen obligations for methane leak detection and repair in the energy sector. Looking top down, the International Methane Emissions Observatory (IMEO) will work globally using satellite technology to monitor big emitters thus helping to inform EU oil and gas importers on the methane footprint of their supplies. Working bottom-up asset owners, including gas transmission and distribution network owners will be required to perform and report on regular LDAR activities at both asset and site levels.
While the debate on what level of methane LDAR activities across the energy sector are both proportionate and implementable is very much ongoing, what is clear is that MEPs are pushing for:
- Multiple LDAR surveys per year, instead of for example annual surveys
- The surveying of all assets, as opposed to only medium and higher-pressure assets
- The use of much much lower leakage thresholds
- Quicker repair times once a leakage has been detected
So how can asset owners meet the requirements of the future finalized EU Methane Regulation without having to multiply by 10 their current LDAR budgets? Are there new monitoring technologies that asset owners can turn to which don’t themselves have a big carbon footprint? There is increasing talk of the role that satellites have to play. But what is fact and what is fiction?