Burping oil and gas infrastructure: Review of current and future methane emissions from Australian unconventional oil and gas production

Wednesday, 23 November 2016 - 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Over the past decade research has emerged from the U.S. that methane emissions from American unconventional oil and gas could be much higher than anticipated. What do we know about methane emissions from Australian unconventional oil and gas, and more specifically from coal seam gas?

Some American studies concluded that more than 10% of American unconventional gas production is inadvertently emitted to the atmosphere.  Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas and in the short term a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Recently the U.S. EPA has adjusted its figures upwards to 1.4% of production and U.S. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau have agreed to drastically reduce methane emissions from oil and gas. The Australian government has not revised its figure, at 0.5% of production. The oil and gas industry itself claims it is as low as 0.1%.

The seminar dives into what is known about methane emissions from the Australian coal seam gas developments and what is not known. It will cover how methane emissions are reported, how they have been measured until today, why that may not be representative for the actual emissions and why Australia should care.

This seminar will elaborate on the review of current and future methane emissions from Australian unconventional oil and gas production commissioned by the Australia Institute, that was conducted by the Melbourne Energy Institute and released late October. 

Event Location: 
Seminar Room
700 Swanston Street LAB14
Parkville, VIC 3010

Dimitri is from the Netherlands, but has been living in Australia for the last 8 years. He graduated from the University of Utrecht with an MSc in geology/geophysics and has been working as a geoscientist for Shell for 11 years in the Netherlands and Australia. He now returns to academic life in pursuit of a PhD researching the climate impact of fugitive emissions of the fossil fuel industry, and unconventional gas in particular. In his free time he can be seen cycling in the Dandenongs.

PhD Project: The effects of methane emissions of unconventional gas settings on the climate

The research aim of this PhD is to investigate and to better quantify the climate impacts of methane emissions and methane leakage associated with unconventional gas developments and specifically the coal seam gas (CSG) developments in Queensland. This will be achieved using field measurements in Queensland and at natural CH4 vents in East Timor, inversion modelling techniques, existing emission databases and climate modelling.

The impact of anthropogenic fossil fuel greenhouse emissions on the climate makes understanding of the true emissions crucial in order to be able to transition to a renewable energy system, without undermining the efforts to avoid dangerous climate change. Natural gas is seen as the transition fuel to make this transition possible, as it emits only 60% of CO2 emissions compared to coal when combusted. There is however mounting evidence, particularly from the United States, but also from Australia, that CH4 emissions from gas extraction and transportation are significantly higher than estimated and reported. While the US studies concentrate on shale gas, the Australian unconventional gas projects are coal seam gas developments. 

What are the CH4 emissions from theses unconventional gas developments, what is the impact of the transition from coal to gas on the climate in a world of increasing demand, and what does this mean for the development of unconventional gas?

Supervisors: Prof. Peter Rayner, A/Prof. Malte Meinshausen, Prof. Mike Sandiford

Start Date: September 2013

Contact: dimitri.lafleur@climate-energy-college.org