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Gazprom Says Routine Work Triggered Methane Spotted From Space

Four clouds of potent greenhouse gas methane were spotted inside Russia, and Gazprom said it’s responsible for two of them.

Clouds of methane observed by satellite over Russia between April 26 and May 6.

Clouds of methane observed by satellite over Russia between April 26 and May 6.

Source: Kayrros SAS

Gazprom PJSC defended two methane releases from its natural-gas pipeline system observed by satellite, saying the emissions were a normal part of maintenance work.

The St. Petersburg, Russia-based company is the latest fossil-fuel operator to justify intentional releases of the powerful greenhouse gas that scientists say must be severely curtailed or eliminated to avoid the worst of climate change. Four distinct clouds of methane were observed over Russia between April 26 and May 6 by a European Space Agency satellite. When contacted by Bloomberg, Gazprom said it was responsible for two plumes near its infrastructure, without identifying which ones.

Two of the releases were in central Russia and within approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of sections of the Urengoy-Pomary-Uzhgorod Gas Pipeline corridor, according to estimates by Kayrros SAS for where the plumes originated and pipeline location data from Global Energy Monitor. The other two concentrations were close to the Kazakhstan border and estimated to be within about 50 kilometers of the Russian section of the Bukhara-Ural pipeline.

``Gazprom subsidiaries vented residual gas ahead of pipeline maintenance in two out of the four locations named in the request,’’ the company said in a statement. ``The vented residual gas volumes were in line with legal requirements and with rules that stipulate retention of as much as 75%-80% of the gas.’’

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Oil and gas operators who say intentional releases and leaks are unavoidable can’t make a case for natural gas being a long-term part of the energy mix, according to the International Energy Agency. Methane emissions from the global energy sector are 70% more than the amounts reported by countries to the United Nations, the Paris-based group said in its Methane Tracker report updated this year.

Although venting pipelines to clear flammable natural gas before maintenance and inspections has been done for decades, there is increasing public scrutiny of these events, and many of them can be mitigated or avoided, said Richard Kuprewicz, a chemical engineer and president of US-based Accufacts Inc., which specializes in gas- and liquid-pipeline investigations.

Russia had the sixth-highest methane intensity associated with its production among selected oil and gas producers last year, according to the IEA. Gazprom, the country’s national pipeline operator, said 0.19% of its transported gas is lost through emissions.

Oil and gas operators from Energy Transfer LP in the US to KazTransGas JSC in Kazakhstan have defended their methane emissions when contacted by Bloomberg. The super-potent greenhouse gas, which is the primary component of natural gas, has 84 times the warming power of carbon dioxide during its first 20 years in the atmosphere.