New study shows need for methane measurement programme

01 Aug 2018

After CO2 , methane is the main contributor to climate change. International studies in which TNO was involved suggest that Dutch assumptions about sources of methane emissions are not correct. Methane emissions due to Dutch natural gas production seem to be substantially higher than assumed. Livestock production is the largest source of methane emissions in the Netherlands. Based on the research, TNO is calling for a National Methane Measurement Programme.

Like to know more about this study?

Read the publication in scientific journal Elementa.

Website Elementa

First public measurement campaign for 20 years

Today's research into Dutch sources of methane emissions, published in the Elementa scientific journal, is based on the first large-scale public measurement campaign for twenty years. Current data is important because methane gas per gram contributes up to 84 times more to global warming than CO₂ in the short term. This makes the reduction of methane an important spearhead. The initiative for the review was taken by the US Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

More reliable methane emission picture with measurement data

Current Dutch policy on methane emissions is predicated on the allocation of sources based on calculation methods. "This research suggests that assumptions computed by the calculation methods do not seem to be 100% correct. We recommend using atmospheric methane measurements in addition to calculation methods. This provides a more reliable and robust picture as a basis for policy to reduce methane emissions. Occasionally, non-public measurements are already taking place there. We argue that these should be more structurally organised in a public National Methane Measurement Programme. This has to concern all sectors, not only the natural gas industry, and be consistent with developments we see in the European Union in this respect," says René Peters, director of gas technology at TNO.

More methane emissions from natural gas production than assumed

TNO researcher Hugo Denier van der Gon contributed to the new research: "Among other things, methane gas is released in the production of natural gas and through livestock farming. Internationally, the quantities of methane released by Dutch natural gas production are remarkably low. These have been confirmed by the study. Looking at the total methane emissions in the research area in the northern Netherlands and the calculation methods used, our investigation suggests that natural gas production emits more methane than currently calculated. We base our results on publicly available data and measurements for an area that supplied 61% of the natural gas production in Groningen and Friesland. The measurement campaign lasted one week in August 2016 and is therefore not representative for a whole year. Our research also shows that animal husbandry is the main cause of methane emissions."

Follow-up to US study

Research into the origin of methane emissions in the Netherlands is a follow-up to previous research conducted in the United States. EDF discovered that methane emissions from oil and gas production were up to 60% higher than those assumed by the regulator. EDF approached TNO for a follow-up study into the Dutch situation. TNO is also involved in the EU's VERIFY project, which aims to achieve independent verification of greenhouse gas emissions. Atmospheric measurements similar to methods used in recent methane gas research will be used for this purpose.


Climate, Air and Sustainability

Translating knowledge of emissions and air quality into solutions for environmental issues: this is the area of expertise of Climate, Air & Sustainability (CAS). In doing so, we take into account... Read more

Dr. ir. Hugo Denier van der Gon

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