2 Gas Fields Produce 'Mind-Boggling' Methane Emissions

'Guardian' reports Turkmenistan is worst in the world for 'super emitting' fossil fuel leaks
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2023 5:00 PM CDT
2 Gas Fields Produce 'Mind-Boggling' Methane Emissions
The symbolic pipes with a sign that reads "Turkmenistan - China" are on exhibit at the Bagtyyarlyk natural gas field in eastern Turkmenistan on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007.   (AP Photo/ Alexander Vershinin)

Satellite data has revealed "mind-boggling" methane emissions from Turkmenistan's two main fossil fuel fields, which caused more global heating in 2022 than all of the carbon emissions in the UK. Data produced by geo-analytics company Kayrros at the request of the Guardian shows Turkmenistan's western fossil fuel field on the Caspian coast emitted more than 2.9 million tons of methane last year, while the eastern field leaked almost 2 million tons. Together, that's equal to 403 million tons of the less potent carbon dioxide, or more than the annual emissions of the UK, which ranks as the 17th worst emitter in the world, per Popular Science. And that's not the whole picture.

Satellites aren't yet able to measure methane emissions over water, meaning the total does not include those from Turkmenistan's offshore installations, per the Guardian. The outlet previously identified Turkmenistan as the worst country in the world for "super emitting" fossil fuel leaks, responsible for 70 of the largest 100 events in 2022. According to new data, Turkmenistan has had 840 super-emitting events since 2019, or "the most from any nation." Unwanted methane is often burned in a process known as flaring, which converts it to CO2—25% less potent at trapping heat than methane. But flaring is easy to detect and "has been increasingly frowned upon in recent years," leading some producers to release of invisible methane gas into the atmosphere, per the Guardian.

This "venting" process, which recent developments in satellite technology are helping to uncover, could be behind Turkmenistan's super-emitting leaks, experts say. Another suspect is the country's aging Soviet-era equipment. Either way, super-emitting events can easily be stopped, Kayrros President Antoine Rostand tells the Guardian. Fixing leaky valves or pipes, or even relighting flares is "very simple to do" and "the cost is completely marginal," he says. However, sources say Turkmenistan's leaders "never cared" about leaks given the country's large gas supply. It is the second-largest supplier of gas to China after Australia and reportedly plans to more than double its exports to the country. It's also working on building a pipeline to Europe. (More methane stories.)

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