[METHANE MATTERS] Malaysia Reaffirms Commitment to Reducing Methane Emissions

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim during his keynote speech at the Energy Asia 2023 reaffirmed Malaysia's commitment to reducing methane emissions. (Photo: Energy Asia)


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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has reaffirmed the country’s commitment to reducing methane emissions, over a year after Malaysia signed the Global Methane Pledge at the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26. 

Delivering the keynote speech at the Energy Asia 2023 conference on June 26, Anwar said Malaysia recognised the importance of managing methane emissions, and had committed to joining the global pledge to cut methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030, compared to 2020 levels.

In the same speech, Anwar emphasised the role of hydrocarbons, particularly natural gas, in Malaysia’s energy sources. Their inclusion was necessary to meet the country’s growing energy demands as it transitioned to a lower-carbon economy.

Despite natural gas being relatively cleaner than fossil fuels, the country acknowledged the potential environmental impact of methane emissions and is taking proactive measures to address and minimise them.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) 6th Assessment Report, methane is a shorter-lived greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide (CO2), but has a global warming potential 82.5 times greater than CO2 over a 20-year period.

As part of its commitment to combating climate change, Malaysia has revised its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions intensity by 45 percent by 2030 compared to 2005 levels.

To expedite progress towards these targets, Anwar has announced the upcoming launch of two crucial roadmaps: the National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) and the Hydrogen Economy and Technology Roadmap (HETR).

Both roadmaps are expected to be unveiled in the second half of this year, and will guide Malaysia’s energy transition and promote long-term energy security through technological innovation.

Leading the way: PETRONAS

While developing new technologies is crucial, cutting emissions remains essential to prevent global temperatures from surpassing the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold.

According to Malaysia’s fourth biennial update report to the United Nations, the oil and gas industries are major producers of methane, emitting the gas during drilling, production, and other parts of their operations.

In this aspect, Malaysia’s national oil company, PETRONAS plays a pivotal role in helping the country achieve its 30 percent methane reduction pledge. Moreover, Petronas also plays a crucial role through advocating for methane emissions management.  

In November 2022, PETRONAS announced ambitious targets to reduce methane emissions by 50 percent by 2025 from 2019 levels, and achieve a 2030 target of 70 percent methane emissions reduction for PETRONAS’ natural gas value chain group wide. 

To support Malaysia’s pledge of 30 percent methane emissions reduction by 2030, PETRONAS plays a crucial role through Malaysia Petroleum Management as the oil and gas regulator, committing to a 50 percent methane emissions reduction for Malaysia’s natural gas value chain.

“It is universally accepted within the oil and gas fraternity that methane is low-hanging fruit because the technologies to abate methane emissions are already present,” said President and Group CEO of PETRONAS, Tan Sri Tengku Muhammad Taufik during the closing press conference of Energy Asia 2023.

Furthermore, the company recognises the importance of influencing its partners and prioritises methane management across its operations and investment decisions

“We are not only sticking to our operations, but we are also aiming to influence our partners,” Tengku Muhammad Taufik  added.

PETRONAS’ dedication to methane management and emissions reduction has been commended by the Minister of Natural Resources, Environment, and Climate Change, Nik Nazmi bin Nik Ahmad.He acknowledged that PETRONAS’ actions will have a significant impact on Malaysia’s overall emissions. “PETRONAS has made a high-level commitment with regards to methane, and what they do will have a big impact on Malaysia,” he said.

PETRONAS further demonstrates its commitment through membership in the United Nations Environment Programme’s Oil and Gas Methane Partnership 2.0 (OGMP2.0), the Methane Guiding Principles initiative, and the International Renewable Energy Agency’s Global Alliance for Industry Decarbonization (IRENA).

PETRONAS has also pledged to avoid routine flaring in new oil field developments, and end routine flaring at existing oil production sites by joining the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring by 2030 Initiative.

Regional collaboration for methane reduction

To expedite methane reduction efforts in ASEAN, PETRONAS has partnered with regional energy operators, governmental agencies, and international organisations to launch the ASEAN Energy Sector Methane Leadership Program (MLP). Over an 18-month period, the program will focus on capacity and capability building, empowering energy companies with plans, targets, and financing options for methane emission reduction.

PETRONAS and the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC) have also announced collaboration on methane abatement projects, covering methane quantification surveys, viable solutions towards achieving zero routine flaring, and potential future collaboration on an electrification hub.

“As an energy-demanding country, we believe that methane emissions management is important in terms of stable supply of clean energy,” JOGMEC’s chairman and chief executive officer Ichiro Takahara said. These projects support lower carbon energy and Malaysia’s commitment to the Global Methane Pledge, aligning with PETRONAS’ commitments to the World Bank’s Zero Routine Flaring initiative by 2030 and OGMP 2.0.Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), urged oil and gas companies to follow PETRONAS’ lead.

“We need all oil companies to join OGMP 2.0. It requires companies to measure their methane leaks empirically and commit to reducing their leaks to below 0.2 percent, in other words, virtually zero,” he said during a Leadership Dialogue at the Energy Asia conference. With over 100 companies joining OGMP 2.0, operating in more than 60 countries, the initiative aims to improve the accuracy and transparency of methane emissions reporting in the sector.

As natural gas continues to play an important role in ASEAN’s energy mix, Krupp highlighted that the PETRONAS-JOGMEC partnership sets a good example for both export and import countries to clean up methane.”This is very exciting because here is an importing nation with an exporting nation agreeing, as a first step, to measure all these emissions. And the second step will undoubtedly be to reduce them,” he added.

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