On Tuesday, June 7, the European Space Agency (ESA) published research that showed the release of thousands of tons of methane gas into the atmosphere coming from a PEMEX platform in the Gulf of Mexico during this past December.
Reuters reported that researchers from the Polytechnic University of Valencia found that from December 8 to December 27, around 4,000 tons of methane were released. What is more, during those 17 days, PEMEX emitted a quantity of methane equivalent to 3.37 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Researchers concluded that the leak could be a result of abnormal process conditions at the site, like malfunctions or equipment issues. Inadequate infrastructure has been identified as one of the main challenges of the state-owned company a long time ago. Burning the excess gas is cheaper than investing in infrastructure to capture, process and transport it for other uses. The NOC and the Ministry of Energy have not responded to any requests for comment on the issue.
The incident was detected by satellites as it happened near the state of Campeche in the Gulf of Mexico. It occurred at the Zaap oil field, part of the Ku-Maloob-Zaap cluster, which produces 20 percent of the country’s total oil output. The satellite data showed that Chiapas and the states of Tabasco and Veracruz are the epicenter of dramatic gas flaring increases.
This is not the first time methane gas has leaked into the atmosphere from one of PEMEX’s platforms. Mexico’s methane leak rate from oil and gas operations is twice as high as that of the US, the world’s top oil producers, reported Reuters.
Methane gas is invisible and odorless, but has shown to be much more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. It is a major driver of global warming. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), one-third of all methane emissions from human activity were generated by fossil fuel operations. Therefore, action against methane emissions is one of the most effective steps the energy sector could take to mitigate climate change.
Moreover, the IEA reported that methane emissions originating from human activity account for 60 percent of the emissions and that the largest source is agriculture, accountable for 25 percent of the total. The industry is followed closely by the energy sector, which includes emissions from coal, oil, natural gas and bioenergy. In that sense, an immediate and major reduction of methane emissions is necessary if natural gas to play a net-positive supporting role in the energy transition, says the agency.
Mexico is among 34 countries, as well as 51 oil companies, that have signed a World Bank-backed pledge to cut routine flaring to zero by 2030. Nevertheless, this new data shows that despite signing the pledge, Mexico is at times moving the opposite direction.