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International Partners Tackle Greenhouse Gas Methane

Methane to Markets membership has grown to 20 nations, 600 organizations

By Cheryl Pellerin | USINFO Staff Writer | 23 August 2007
Methane gas in Earth's atmosphere

A view of Earth shows methane gas trapped in the atmosphere. Methane accounts for 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. (NASA)

Washington -- Methane is a greenhouse gas that is second only to carbon dioxide as an atmospheric contributor to climate change. It is also the main component of natural gas, and countries around the world are working together to put harmful methane emissions to work as a clean energy source.

The nations are working as part of the Methane to Markets Partnership, launched in 2004 by the United States and 13 other countries. Today, its 20 member nations -- with a pending membership for the European Commission -- and nearly 600 participating public and private organizations work together on nearly 100 projects and activities around the world.

An array of ongoing and potential projects will be shown at the Methane to Markets Exposition in Beijing, October 30-November 1. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and China's National Development and Reform Commission will co-host the expo with key Chinese ministries and corporations.

“The expo is a huge event for the partnership,” said Paul Gunning, branch chief in the Climate Change Division at EPA, in an August 23 USINFO interview. “We’ve enjoyed a really successful collaboration with the government of China to put it all together.”

Organizing sponsors include the Asian Development Bank; the Australian government; the United Kingdom's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs; Environment Canada; the International Energy Agency; and the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe.

RECOVERING METHANE

Over 200 years, methane concentrations in the atmosphere have more than doubled, largely because of human activity. Methane is 23 times better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than is carbon dioxide, so reducing methane emissions is a good short-term way to address global warming.

Methane accounts for 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and about 60 percent of methane emissions come from anthropogenic (people-generated) sources. The rest come from natural sources like wetlands, gas hydrates (crystalline solids that store large amounts of gases like methane), permafrost and termite digestion.

About 25 percent of methane emissions and 43 percent of people-generated emissions come from four sources that Methane to Markets targets – agriculture (animal waste management), coal mining, landfills and natural oil and gas systems.

Activities under the partnership address all four methane sources. On August 14, for example, India’s largest oil producer -- the Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd. (ONGC) in Dehradun -- signed an agreement to join seven other large oil and natural gas companies as a partner in EPA's Natural Gas STAR International Program.

The program, a Methane to Markets project, seeks to identify and implement projects that cost-effectively reduce methane emissions and deliver more gas to world markets.

“As an environmentally conscious company,” ONGC Chairman R.S. Sharma said in a statement, “ONGC is committed to the cause of mitigating global warming. This present endeavor will be a good and fruitful step toward that end and will pave a way for a good relationship between ONGC with USEPA."

In the agriculture sector, for example, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank provided a $7 million, five-year grant to reduce environmental and health impacts from increasingly concentrated livestock production in China, Thailand and Vietnam. The grant supports a demonstration of cost-effective livestock waste management techniques at selected farms in the countries.

With the U.N. Economic Commission for Europe, EPA initiated a three-year project to address financial barriers to developing, promoting and selling coal mine methane recovery and use projects in Eastern Europe.

TO THE MARKETPLACE

At the expo in Beijing, Gunning said, the Methane to Markets steering committee will plan next steps for the partnership, hold a conference with international expert speakers for an exchange of technical and policy information, and exhibit methane recovery and use projects and technologies.

The expo will include an international methane capture marketplace -- the first international forum devoted to promoting project opportunities and technologies related to methane recovery and use.

It will offer opportunities for the private sector and others who want to showcase their methane recovery or use technology, or their expertise in finance or project development, Gunning said.

EPA also has been working in each sector to help countries identify potential projects for development.

As an example, Gunning said, “in the landfill sector throughout the world -- Latin America, India, China -- we’ve been working with governments and private-sector entities to identify potential landfill sites we believe could be good projects. EPA has done assessments or feasibility analyses that are always needed to get somebody interested -- either a financier or project developer.”

At the expo, at least 30 such projects will be on display, and EPA is working to make sure people associated with each project can travel to Beijing to discuss their work with potential developers.

“We will be doing that as part of the expo,” he added, “and hopefully see a flowering of projects that comes out of it.”

More information about the Methane to Markets Partnership is available at the organization’s Web site and EPA Web site.

For more information on U.S. policies and programs, see Climate Change and Clean Energy.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Methane gas in the atmosphere

This graph shows methane concentrations in the atmosphere, which have more than doubled in 200 years. (NASA)

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