lng © Oleksandr Kalinichenko
Photo: © Oleksandr Kalinichenko

 Originally touted as a clean-burning fuel with reduced sulphur and particulates and a part-way decarbonisation solution, recent developments show the honeymoon is definitely over for liquefied methane gas (LNG).

On Monday, 40 lawmakers signed a letter to Brenda Mallory, chair of the the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), “sounding the alarm” over the buildout of LNG infrastructure in the US.

“Our ability to combat the worst impacts of the climate crisis depends, to a significant degree, on whether the United States approves proposed LNG pipeline and export terminal projects on top of the already-substantial LNG infrastructure,” wrote Senators Jeff Merkley, Jared Huffman, Raul Grijalva and Nanette Barragán, who led a coalition of over 40 Democrats.

Meanwhile, a campaign against LNG bunkering at the port of Long Beach by group Pacific Environment is gaining steam, with over 1,300 signatures.

And, following last month’s formation of anti-methane advocacy group Say No To LNG, last week members of the European Parliament resolved to attack the issue of methane emissions from the oil, gas and coal and petrochemical sectors.

A new law will ban venting and flaring methane and require operators to “submit a methane leak detection and repair programme to the relevant national authorities six months from the date of entry into force of this regulation”.

Crucially, the law would apply to imported methane as well, meaning the standards would have to be similarly enforced outside the EU.

“In the energy sector, three-quarters of methane emissions can be avoided by simple measures and without large investments,” said Jutta Paulus, rapporteur and member of Germany’s Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance. “As Europe imports more than 80% of the fossil fuels it burns, is essential to expand the scope of these rules to energy imports.”

Steve Esau, COO of advocacy group Sea-LNG, which recently welcomed a tenth fossil fuel company, Énestas, to its board’s line-up, told The Loadstar: “From 2024 the EU ETS will include CO2 emissions only, while the EU MRV will be extended to include reporting of methane and nitrous oxide (N2O). From 2026 the EU ETS will include these two GHGs.”

However, advocates of LNG maintain it plays an important role as a bridging fuel. Indeed, the maritime industry has proven it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions by burning LNG instead of liquid fossil fuels, such as heavy fuel oil or marine diesel.

But methane slip – the unburned proportion of the LNG, emitted from the funnel – is proportionately much a more potent greenhouse gas (GHG) than CO2.

Thanks to a great deal of research and development, many ship engines now exude little unburned methane. However, thanks to its proportionate GHG potency, even a small amount of methane slip is enough to mitigate any CO2 emissions reduction.

Comment on this article

You must be logged in to post a comment.