Mexico should reduce methane emissions from oil rigs

  • The international organization Clean Air Institute presented an investigation that analyzes opportunities to reduce pollutant emissions in maritime oil platforms.
  • Offshore oil and gas’ exploration and production is the largest sectorial source of methane emissions in Mexico; and this gas, along with other pollutants such as black carbon, has severe impacts on the climate of the planet.
  • Mexico succeeded in reducing methane emissions of this sector during the period 2008 – 2013; since then, methane emissions have increased year after year and is at its highest level since 2010.
  • Developing and implementing effective regulations for marine platforms, both existing and new, is essential to meet national climate change mitigation goals.

Mexico City, January 24, 2018.- The international organization Clean Air Institute (CAI) presented to Mexican authorities and various interest groups a study on opportunities to reduce pollutant emissions from offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

After reviewing estimates – calculated by the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change – about the current emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) and Short-lived Climate Pollutants (CCVC) in Mexico, CAI identified that the oil and gas sector represents 12.1% of the total emission of such pollutants.

Within the referred sector, off-shore oil production is the largest source of GHG emissions [such as Carbon Dioxide and Nitric Oxide] and CCVC [such as Methane and Black Carbon]. These pollutants have significant impacts on climate change.

Burning (flaring) and venting of natural gas (NG) carried out by the petroleum industry in different processes represent 77% of the total methane emissions of the sector, which places these activities as areas of great opportunity to mitigate these pollutant emissions.

Although Mexico was successful in reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector during the 2008-2013 period, official information from the National Hydrocarbons Commission and preliminary calculations retaken by CAI indicate that, since then, such polluting emissions have increased year after year and they are at their highest level since 2010.

The study prepared by CAI, aims to make visible the technological alternatives that exist so that oil production in the Mexican high seas reduces its pollutant emissions and contributes to achieve Mexico’s climatic and environmental objectives, while also fulfilling the social and economic purposes promoted by the energy reform.

“Although the activities of offshore oil rigs are subject to permits and licenses, there is still no specific regulation to deal with their emissions,” said Sergio Sanchez, CAI Executive Director. “This contrasts with other oil countries where standards that affect lower emissions of methane and other pollutants are in force,” he continued.

Given the expected establishment of rules that address this problem, CAI’s research confirms that there are currently good practices and mature technological developments in the world to reduce methane and black carbon emissions in oil and gas exploration, drilling and production.

“Current, simple and economic measures, such as the increased use of high efficiency burners, low emission valves and monitoring equipment to detect and control leaks, are some examples of actions available to benefit environmental and public health protection”, complemented Sanchez.

Given the announced increase in production of the industry, derived from the energy reform, it is necessary to anticipate actions to maximize the social and economic benefits of the constitutional amendment and prevent negative environmental impacts.

The CAI report emphasizes that now is the time to finalize a disciplined regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas sector, going through strengthening of existing measures on oil exploration and production in maritime waters.

“Developing and implementing effective regulations for marine platforms, both existing and new, is essential to meet the climate change mitigation goals committed by the country,” said Sergio Sánchez. In addition, strengthening these regulations will also bring health benefits associated with improving air quality.

About the Clean Air Institute

The Clean Air Institute (CAI) is an international non-profit organization based in Washington DC, whose mission is to catalyze processes to improve air quality and mitigate climate change at local, national and international levels.