Oil and Gas Methane Science Studies

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) and European Commission are working together on a series of peer-reviewed scientific studies to measure methane emissions in the oil and gas sector. The data collected will help companies and governments prioritize actions and policies to reduce methane emissions.

The challenge

Methane is a greenhouse gas many times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. However, relatively little is known about emissions from one of its largest man-made sources, the oil and gas industry.

The International Energy Agency has noted that “the potential for natural gas to play a credible role in the transition to a decarbonized energy system fundamentally depends on minimizing methane emissions, particularly outside the U.S.”

Most of what we do know concerns methane emissions in the United States, where oil and gas production is booming and where EDF carried out 16 studies in cooperation with the industry that led to 28 peer-reviewed papers on US emissions. Outside the US, however, emission estimates are less certain. The new studies will help refine the global estimates that do exist while improving national estimates.


The new global study comes out of an announcement made by EDF and several oil and gas companies in 2015 at COP21 in Paris to better quantify the industry’s contribution to global methane emissions across the value chain. Since then, Phase-1 work has focused on understanding what data gaps exist and what additional science would be most effective in filling those gaps. Phase 2, which started in 2018, consists of field studies using multiple measurement methods.

The studies are governed by a Steering Committee of funders. The science will be guided by a Scientific Advisory Panel and Chief Scientist, Steven Hamburg of the Environmental Defense Fund. The governance protocols for the studies will build on the model and experience of the EDF-led studies in the US, aimed at ensuring scientific integrity. This includes measures to safeguard researchers’ independence and publication of the studies in peer-reviewed journals.

The Coalition, whose Secretariat is hosted by UN Environment, has made this new science initiative an official part of its work. This will allow the study to take advantage of synergies with the CCAC Oil & Gas Methane Partnership, a public-private voluntary initiative that helps oil and gas companies take a systematic approach to reducing emissions and reporting on progress. For example, some studies could build on the field surveys that some companies are carrying out under the Oil & Gas Methane Partnership.

Over $7 million in donations have been received from the European Commission, EDF, and the companies of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI). Other companies and CCAC Partner governments are invited to provide additional funding to the studies to help expand their scope.

Additional companies, governments or other organisations interested in contributing to the studies should contact the activity coordinators.

As of December 2021 ten Methane Science Studies papers have been published :

1. Investigation of the Spatial Distribution of Methane Sources in the Greater Toronto Area Using Mobile Gas Monitoring Systems; Sebastien Ars, Felix Vogel, Colin Arrowsmith, Sajjan Heerah, Emily Knuckey, Juliette Lavoie, Christopher Lee, Nasrin Mostafavi Pak, Jaden L. Phillips, and Debra Wunch; Environmental Science & Technology 2020 54 (24), 15671-15679; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c05386

2. Methane mapping, emission quantification, and attribution in two European cities: Utrecht (NL) and Hamburg (DE); Hossein Maazallahi, Julianne M. Fernandez, Malika Menoud, Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Zachary D. Weller, Stefan Schwietzke, Joseph C. von Fischer, Hugo Denier van der Gon, and Thomas Röckmann; Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics 20, 1–24, 2020.

3. A tale of two regions: methane emissions from oil and gas production in offshore/onshore Mexico; Daniel Zavala-Araiza, Mark Omara, Ritesh Gautam, Mackenzie L Smith, Sudhanshu Pandey, Ilse Aben, Victor Almanza-Veloz, Stephen Conley, Sander Houweling, Eric A Kort, Joannes D Maasakkers, Luisa T Molina, Abhinand Pusuluri, Tia Scarpelli,, Stefan Schwietzke, Lu Shen, Miguel Zavala and Steven P Hamburg; Environmental Research Letters, 2021.

4. Methane Emissions from Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms in the Gulf of Mexico; Tara I. Yacovitch, Conner Daube, and Scott C. Herndon; Environmental Science & Technology 2020 54 (6), 3530-3538; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.9b07148.

5. Airborne Assessment of Methane Emissions from Offshore Platforms in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico; Alan M. Gorchov Negron, Eric A. Kort, Stephen A. Conley, and Mackenzie L. Smith; Environmental Science & Technology 2020 54 (8), 5112-5120; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.0c00179.

6. Isotopic Signatures of Major Methane Sources in the Coal Seam Gas Fields and Adjacent Agricultural Districts, Queensland, Australia; Lu, X., Harris, S. J., Fisher, R. E., France, J. L., Nisbet, E. G., Lowry, D., Röckmann, T., van der Veen, C., Menoud, M., Schwietzke, S., and Kelly, B. F. J.: Isotopic Signatures of Major Methane Sources in the Coal Seam Gas Fields and Adjacent Agricultural Districts, Queensland, Australia, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. [preprint].

7. Facility level measurement of offshore oil and gas installations from a medium-sized airborne platform: method development for quantification and source identification of methane emissions; James L. France, Prudence Bateson, Pamela Dominutti, Grant Allen, Stephen Andrews, Stephane Bauguitte, Max Coleman, Tom Lachlan-Cope, Rebecca E. Fisher, Langwen Huang, Anna E. Jones, James Lee, David Lowry, Joseph Pitt, Ruth Purvis, John Pyle, Jacob Shaw, Nicola Warwick, Alexandra Weiss, Shona Wilde, Jonathan Witherstone, and Stuart Young; Atmos. Meas. Tech., 14, 71–88, 2021.

8. Mapping Urban Methane Sources in Paris, France. Sara M. Defratyka, Jean-Daniel Paris, Camille Yver-Kwok, Julianne M. Fernandez, Piotr Korben, and Philippe Bousquet; Environmental Science & Technology Article ASAP; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.1c00859. 

9. Coal seam gas industry methane emissions in the Surat Basin, Australia: comparing airborne measurements with inventories; Bruno G. Neininger†, Bryce F. J. Kelly†, Jorg M. Hacker, Xinyi LU and Stefan Schwietzke†; Published 27 September 2021.

10. Quantification and assessment of methane emissions from offshore oil and gas facilities on the Norwegian Continental Shelf; Foulds, A., Allen, G., Shaw, J. T., Bateson, P., Barker, P. A., Huang, L., Pitt, J. R., Lee, J. D., Wilde, S. E., Dominutti, P., Purvis, R. M., Lowry, D., France, J. L., Fisher, R. E., Fiehn, A., Pühl, M., Bauguitte, S. J. B., Conley, S. A., Smith, M. L., Lachlan-Cope, T., Pisso, I., and Schwietzke, S Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. [preprint], in review, 2021.

Pollutants (SLCPs)