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‘Thoughts-boggling’ methane emissions from Turkmenistan revealed | Turkmenistan

‘Thoughts-boggling’ methane emissions from Turkmenistan revealed | Turkmenistan

2023-05-09 02:12:16

Methane leaks alone from Turkmenistan’s two essential fossil gasoline fields precipitated extra international heating in 2022 than all the carbon emissions of the UK, satellite tv for pc information has revealed.

Emissions of the potent greenhouse fuel from the oil- and gas-rich nation are “mind-boggling”, and an “infuriating” drawback that must be simple to repair, specialists have advised the Guardian.

The information produced by Kayrros for the Guardian discovered that the western fossil gasoline area in Turkmenistan, on the Caspian coast, leaked 2.6m tonnes of methane in 2022. The japanese area emitted 1.8m tonnes. Collectively, the 2 fields launched emissions equal to 366m tonnes of CO2, greater than the UK’s annual emissions, that are the Seventeenth-biggest on this planet.

Methane emissions have surged alarmingly since 2007 and this acceleration will be the largest menace to protecting beneath 1.5C of worldwide heating, in accordance with scientists. It additionally severely dangers triggering catastrophic climate tipping points, researchers say.

Chart: Methane emissions from Turkmenistan’s fossil fuel fields

The Guardian not too long ago revealed that Turkmenistan was the worst in the world for methane “super emitting” leaks. Separate analysis suggests a swap from the flaring of methane to venting could also be behind a few of these huge outpourings.

Flaring is used to burn undesirable fuel, placing CO2 into the environment, however is simple to detect and has been more and more frowned upon in recent times. Venting merely releases the invisible methane into the air unburned, which, till latest developments in satellite tv for pc know-how, had been exhausting to detect. Methane traps 80 instances extra warmth than CO2 over 20 years, making venting far worse for the local weather.

Consultants advised the Guardian that the Cop28 UN local weather summit being hosted within the United Arab Emirates in December was a chance to drive methane-cutting motion in Turkmenistan. The 2 petrostates have shut ties and there’s stress on the UAE to dispel doubts that a big oil and gas producer can ship robust outcomes from the summit.

Tackling leaks from fossil gasoline websites is the quickest and least expensive technique to slash methane emissions, and subsequently international heating. Motion to stem leaks typically pays for itself, because the fuel captured will be bought. However the upkeep of infrastructure in Turkmenistan may be very poor, in accordance with specialists.


“Methane is answerable for nearly half of short-term [climate] warming and has completely not been managed to this point – it was utterly uncontrolled,” mentioned Antoine Rostand, the president of Kayrros.

“We all know the place the tremendous emitters are and who’s doing it,” he mentioned. “We simply want the policymakers and traders to do their job, which is to crack down on methane emissions. There isn’t any comparable motion by way of [reducing] short-term local weather impacts.”

Tremendous-emissions from oil and fuel installations have been readily ended, Rostand mentioned, by fixing valves or pipes or, on the very least, relighting flares: “It’s quite simple to do, it has no price for the citizen, and for the producers, the price is totally marginal.”

The satellite tv for pc information utilized by Kayrros to detect methane has been collected for the reason that begin of 2019 and Turkmenistan’s total emissions present a stage development since then. Satellites have additionally detected 840 super-emitting occasions, ie leaks from single wells, tanks or pipes at a fee of some tonnes an hour or extra, probably the most from any nation.

Number of methane super-emitter events in Turkmenistan, US, Russia, Algeria and Kazakhstan recorded by satellite, 2019-2022

A lot of the services leaking the methane have been owned by Turkmenoil, the nationwide oil firm, Kayrros mentioned. Additional undetected methane emissions might be coming from Turkmenistan’s offshore oil and fuel installations within the Caspian Sea, however the means of satellites to measure methane leaks over water remains to be being developed.

Kayrros additionally did some high-resolution monitoring of the North Bugdayly area in western Turkmenistan. The variety of super-emitter occasions there doubled to nearly 60 between 2021 and 2022, with one latest super-emitter pouring out methane for nearly six weeks.

Turkmenistan is China’s largest provider of fuel and is planning to double its exports to the nation. Till 2018, Turkmen residents had acquired free gas and electricity. Nevertheless, the nation can be very weak to the impacts of the local weather disaster, with the chance of severe drought projected to increase “very significantly” over the twenty first century and yields of main crops anticipated to fall.

‘Enormous alternative’

Talking freely in regards to the repressive and authoritarian state is tough however sources advised the Guardian it was a “very miserable” state of affairs, with Turkmenistan most likely the worst nation on this planet in coping with methane leaks.

They mentioned stopping or fixing the leaks represented a “big alternative” however that the dearth of motion was “infuriating”. Turkmenistan may cease the leaks from ageing Soviet-era gear and practices, they mentioned, and the nation may very well be the “world’s largest methane reducer”. However the big fuel assets on faucet meant “they by no means cared if it leaked”.

It was additionally not a precedence for the president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, they mentioned, with out whose approval little occurs. That is regardless of Berdimuhamedov, then deputy chair of the cupboard of ministers, telling the UN climate summit Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021 that Turkmenistan was decreasing greenhouse fuel emissions “by introducing trendy applied sciences in all spheres of the state’s financial system”, with “particular consideration” to the discount of methane emissions.

Turkmenistan’s president, Serdar Berdymukhamedov, at his inauguration ceremony in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, March 2022.
Turkmenistan’s president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov, at his inauguration ceremony in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in March 2022. {Photograph}: AP

Berdimuhamedov additionally welcomed the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) to chop emissions, however Turkmenistan has failed to hitch the 150 nations now signed. Neither are Turkmenoil and Turkengas, the state firms, members of a voluntary UN initiative to chop leaks, the Oil and Gasoline Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP2), which covers about 40% of worldwide oil and fuel manufacturing. “The president hasn’t adopted up,” mentioned a supply.

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Largest hotspot

Current scientific analysis, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, discovered that the west coast of Turkmenistan was “one of many largest methane hotspots on this planet”.

Detailed evaluation of satellite tv for pc information revealed 29 completely different super-emitter occasions between 2017 and 2020, though older satellite tv for pc information confirmed that “this kind of emission has been occurring for many years”.

The researchers mentioned 24 of the 29 super-emitter occasions got here from flare stacks that had been extinguished and have been then venting methane immediately into the air, and that every one have been managed by state firms. The opposite 5 have been linked to pipeline leaks. The scientists mentioned that “the extra frequent emitters would battle with Turkmen legislation, which bans steady fuel flaring and venting”.

“Flaring may be very simple to determine from the flame itself,” mentioned Itziar Irakulis-Loitxate, of the Universitat Politècnica de València in Spain, who led the research. “However venting was one thing that you may not determine simply till two years in the past.” The swap to venting, a far worse environmental observe, was “mind-boggling”, in accordance with one other skilled.

The scientists mentioned the prevalence of venting “factors to the dangers of penalising flaring with out efficient measures to manage venting”. The World Financial institution based a global initiative to end flaring in 2015.

‘Forcing mechanism’

The UN local weather summit in December represented a chance for change, sources mentioned, as it’s being hosted by the UAE, which has robust hyperlinks with Turkmenistan and experience in oil and fuel manufacturing. The latest go to by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the UAE’s deputy prime minister, to Turkmenistan was in February. He met Berdimuhamedov and mentioned with him bilateral cooperation “in important sectors comparable to oil and fuel”.

The UAE is a member of the International Methane Pledge and the state oil firm, Adnoc, is a member of the OGMP2. Adnoc recently announced a partnership to develop a “supergiant fuel area” referred to as Galkynysh and different vitality tasks in Turkmenistan. Nevertheless, Adnoc didn’t reply to a request for data on how the corporate would assist restrict methane emissions within the nation.

The Guardian understands diplomatic efforts are being made to induce Turkmenistan to chop its methane emissions. “We’re actually hoping Cop28 is a forcing mechanism,” a supply mentioned.

The Guardian contacted Turkmenoil, Turkmengaz, the Turkmenistan ministry of international affairs and the Turkmen embassy within the UK for remark, however none responded.

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