PetroChina makes progress on methane emissions, hazardous waste production

| By Martin Clark

PetroChina, the largest oil and gas producer in China, saw a 6.35 per cent year-on-year decrease in methane emissions from 2021 to 2022, the first two years the company reported data.

Methane emissions fell from 428,100 tonnes of CH4 in 2021 to 400,900 tonnes of CH4 in 2022, according to Evaluate Energy data.

Meanwhile, annual hydrocarbon production rose from 1,625 million boe in 2021 to 1,685 million boe in 2022, indicating methane emissions reduction came from process. PetroChina’s methane intensity fell from 0.45 per cent in 2021 to 0.4 per cent in 2022. Methane intensity is the ratio of methane leaked compared to hydrocarbon output.

Reducing methane emissions was one of 10 sustainability projects outlined by PetroChina last year.

It has several actions it is taking on methane emissions, including reducing flaring, putting in place leak detection and repair (LDAR) and emissions monitoring and accounting systems, as well as implementing technologies to recover vent gas from oil production. In 2022 it reported for the first time a figure for recovery from gas venting of 1.5 billion cubic metres.

The company says it is participating actively in China’s methane monitoring pilot projects and is currently undertaking a study to evaluate China’s nationwide methane emissions in 2030.

Global action

PetroChina is a member of the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI), a group of 12 of the world’s largest oil and gas companies including Chevron Corporation, Exxon Mobil Corporation and Occidental that have a collective target to reduce methane emissions intensity to “well below” 0.2 per cent by 2025, among other targets.

OGCI members met the target early, reporting an aggregate upstream methane intensity of 0.17 per cent in 2021, the last year for which data is available, suggesting there is scope for PetroChina to make further reductions in line with its peers.

The OGCI has provided its members with a methane flaring reduction toolkit and has conducted a satellite monitoring study in Iraq which found that there is significant potential to use that technology to detect methane emissions in other regions around the world.

PetroChina started its methane reduction program later than most EU and U.S. companies — many of which began to tackle the problem after the Paris Agreement in 2015. PetroChina only began reporting in 2020 and has an individual company goal to reduce methane intensity to 0.25 per cent by 2025 and to 0.2 per cent by 2035. It hopes to maintain methane intensity this year despite targeting a 2.6 per cent increase in production to 1,729 million boe in 2023.

Hazardous waste

Hazardous waste refers to any waste material generated during exploration, extraction, refining and production processes that poses a threat to the environment or human health. Fluids used during fracking and drilling are the most common examples.

PetroChina reduced the amount of hazardous waste it produced by 32 per cent from 1.396 million tonnes in 2021 to 0.943 million tonnes in 2022.

The company has reduced its use of oil-based mud in its operations by deploying layered drilling techniques and has begun using new technologies to capture and dispose of what oil-based mud it does use.

PetroChina has recently adopted a new digitalized control system for its entire waste management process from generation through to storage, transportation and disposal to ensure it is compliant with regulations.

In 2022, the firm built more facilities to dispose of oil-bearing waste and stepped up its inspection and maintenance regime for existing facilities.


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