At present, Shell estimates that the methane emissions intensity of its operations ranges from 0.01% at its most efficient oil and gas assets, to 0.8% at the least efficient facilities.

The new target forms part of the company’s long-term goal of halving the carbon footprint of its energy products by 2050.

“This methane target complements Shell’s ambition to cut the net carbon footprint of our energy products by around half by 2050, which we announced in November 2017,” Shell’s integrated gas and new energies director Maarten Wetselaar said.

“It is a further demonstration of our continued focus on tackling greenhouse gas emissions. Such efforts are a critical part of Shell’s strategy to thrive during the global energy transition by providing more and cleaner energy.”

Shell said it will use infrared cameras to scan for methane emissions, deploy advanced technology to repair leaks and replace high-bleed pneumatically-operated controllers with low-emission alternatives as it strives to meet the new aim.

The new target was welcomed by the United Nations (UN) Environment’s head of energy and climate Mark Radka, who said it sent “strong signals” to other big-name stakeholders in the oil and gas sector.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, but it has a relatively short lifetime in the atmosphere,” Radka added. “That means reducing methane emissions brings immediate climate benefits, buying some time while we work out longer-term solutions.”

Shell said in a statement that it is aware of issues with the current metrics available to measure methane emissions, but that it would collaborate with other industry stakeholders to develop more accurate metrics.

Out of gas

The move from Shell comes shortly after the company co-produced a set of guiding principles to help energy companies reduce methane emissions. Developed as part of a partnership with NGO the Climate and Clean Air Coalition, the principles have been adopted by 16 countries since they were published in 2017.

The new goal makes Shell the third oil and gas company to have set near-zero methane emissions target in recent months, after BP and ExxonMobil unveiled new targets in April and May respectively. BP’s target is for the methane emissions intensity of its operations to reach below 0.2% by the end of 2018, while ExxonMobil is aiming to reduce its net methane emissions by 15% by 2020, against a 2017 baseline.

Sarah George

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