Wasting methane from waste

Author: David Bamford

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Insights from Climate Trace

It’s well known that Waste Management – which includes landfills, anaerobic digesters and water treatment – is a large source of methane emissions.
Thanks to Climate Trace, we now have compilations of what’s been Reported by year in this sector, and here I show their Global summary for 2022. 

From the small print, you should be able to read that this is from over 63,500 sources (obviously they can’t do anything about companies and countries that don’t report) and from the number at the lower left, you can note that the 2022 total comes to 101 million tonnes of CH4.

A couple of things about this number; first of all it’s significantly more than the number for Oil & Gas (production, refineries, transmission) which Climate Trace and the IEA have as 88 and 82 million tonnes respectively. And both considerably less than the 2022 number for Agriculture which Climate Trace asserts is 147 million tonnes.

The other thing of note is the geographic distribution with the USA, Europe and SE Asia dominant; many areas of the world are relatively ‘innocent’, much of Africa for example.

Global summary for 2022
EU methane emissions in focus

Focusing on the the EU, the image comes from Climate Trace’s compilation of Reported methane emissions for the EU Waste sector (landfills, anaerobic digesters, water treatment) in 2022.

Note, over 21,400 individual sources and a total of 5.45 million tonnes, compared with 1.17 and 8.08 million tonnes respectively from the EU Oil & Gas and Agriculture sectors.

Over the last couple of months, the EU Commission has announced the imminent introduction of CBAM – the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism – which will interrogate companies and countries wishing to import goods into the EU as to their methane emissions, and apply an import tax, perhaps related to a measure such as methane intensity.

To be honest, if I was in Trinidad, Senegal/Mauritania – indeed anywhere in North Africa, the Middle East, viewing Climate Trace’s maps, I would ask whether the EU has its own internal act together, with regard to regulation, measurement and reporting, taxation?

By the way, I did dig into all the Climate Trace maps to see if I could find an account of the Brussels EU HQ’s emissions – no luck, I’m afraid………but then not every entity reports!

The EU Waste sector in 2022
And what about the U.K.?

The image here is for Climate Trace’s 2022 compilation for the UK’s Waste Sector, methane emissions from 2066 individual sources amounting to 407 kilotonnes, compared with 395 and 1050 kilotonnes respectively for the Oil & Gas and Agriculture sectors.

Note that of the 407 kilotonnes, 213 are for ‘Solid Waste Disposal’ (aka landfills), 127 are for ‘Wastewater Treatment and Discharge’, 26 for ‘Incineration and Open Burning of Waste’, and 41 for ‘Biological Treatment of Solid Waste’.

Now a little knowledge is a dangerous thing! But I do know something about where I live which is Oxfordshire (abuts Berkshire and Buckinghamshire) and I would say that: there are several landfills in this area that are unreported in Climate Trace’s compilation perhaps because regulation of the Waste sector is quite weak; there have been major explosions at two Anaerobic Digesters (Benson in 2016, Cassington in 2023) due to lightning strikes; a major fire in 2019 (High Heavens near High Wycombe); and let’s not get started on the Discharge of sewage into our rivers!

2022 compilation for the UK’s Waste Sector
In summary, regulation of the UK waste sector feels weak!

And in parallel, this Methane from Waste is being wasted as an energy source when it could be used for example for local power generation

‍Future Energy Partners can deliver a holistic approach to methane emission reduction, which coupled with our global expertise, and ability to integrate with key stakeholders leads to the development of a clear vision and optimal solutions for our clients. Such solutions enable them to monitor, measure and, hence, accurately report and eliminate methane emissions – at well sites, production ‘hubs’, along pipelines, and in refineries.

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