Methane Plumes Spotted Near Central Asia Pipes to China, Russia
(Bloomberg) -- Powerful plumes of the super-potent greenhouse gas methane were detected by satellite late last month in Turkmenistan, near production fields and pipelines that transport natural gas to China and Russia.
The former Soviet Republic is the largest pipeline gas supplier to China and a global methane hotspot, with satellite observations the last few years showing severe emissions near oil and gas infrastructure in the country’s western and eastern regions. Methane has more than 80 times the short-term warming impact of carbon dioxide.
A plume with an estimated emissions rate of 172 tons an hour was spotted Aug. 31, near production fields and the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline that runs from Turkmenistan’s southeast to Russia, according to Kayrros SAS. A second concentration with an estimated emissions rate of 50 tons an hour was detected the same day near fields and a pipeline that helps transport gas to China, the geoanalytics company said.
No one answered calls to Turkmengaz, the country's national gas operator, and Turkmenistan's Foreign Ministry.
Turkmenistan has the world’s fourth-largest gas reserves and its Galkynysh field, which was developed jointly with China National Petroleum Corp., is one of the world's largest. CNPC didn't respond to an email seeking comment.
China imported 20.7 million metric tons of natural gas from Turkmenistan last year, which accounted for roughly 60% of the nation’s pipeline gas imports, according to China customs data. Turkmenistan has been run by autocratic President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov since late 2006.
Turkmenistan’s methane intensity — the amount of the greenhouse gas released per unit of energy produced — is surpassed only by the failed petrostates of Libya and Venezuela, according to a 2020 analysis of selected energy producers by the International Energy Agency. If they lasted for one hour, the plumes spotted by satellite last month would have a cumulative short-term climate impact equivalent to the annual emissions of roughly 11,000 passenger vehicles in the U.K.
Cutting methane emissions from oil and gas operations is a central tenet of scientists and policy makers working to avert the worst of climate change. Three-quarters of the world’s methane releases from oil and gas can be halted through measures like upgrading infrastructure, according to the International Energy Agency.
Public and private satellites are helping spot leaks of the super-potent gas in countries including Algeria and Kazakhstan.
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