The European Union has been urged to use its market power as the world’s largest gas importer to signal to suppliers that only natural gas that is virtually free of methane emissions is viable as a gas resource.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has called on the EU to set “stringent methane performance standards” in its first ever strategy on methane due in four weeks’ time.

SIGN UP FOR OUR NEW ENERGY TRANSITION NEWSLETTER

Energy explored: Gain valuable insight into the global oil and gas industry's energy transition from Accelerate, the new weekly newsletter from Upstream and Recharge. Sign up here.

In a letter, Poppy Kalesi, director with the EDF, called upon European decision makers to “seize the opportunity offered by the strategy and enact sustainability standards on methane, which will be essential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on the continent and beyond”.

The EDF called for support for legislation for a near-zero methane future.

In the first 20 years after it is emitted, methane is 84 to 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide. As a result, methane drives 25% of current global warming, the EDF said.

Stopping methane pollution from oil and gas operations is the “fastest and most affordable climate solution that exists”, the environmentalist group claims.

Calling for change

“For Europe to deliver on its ambitious climate targets, it must address the critical issue of methane emissions from oil and gas operations,” the EDF said.

“As the largest importer of internationally traded natural gas (47% of the global market), the EU is uniquely positioned to require stringent methane performance standards for all gas sold in the EU — a move that would catalyse immediate reductions of this potent climate pollutant around the world,” it added.

Currently, there are no sustainability product standards on gas, and environmental external factors are not reflected in the gas price.

According to the group, there is wide support building for a 0.2% methane performance standard by 2025.

“With the forthcoming EU Methane Strategy, Europe has a major opportunity to lead – not just domestically but internationally,” the EDF said.

Much of the EU’s gas comes from Russia, Norway and Algeria.

EU plan ‘falls short’

The EU’s long-awaited plan to curb emissions of methane is, however, not expected to impose binding standards on natural gas sold in the bloc, Reuters reported earlier this week.

According to a draft seen by the news wire, the methane strategy draft does not propose further methane emission standards but commits to “explore” them, without fixing a date.

Under the draft, proposed legislation would require oil and gas companies to better monitor and report methane emissions, and repair leaks.

Some energy companies, including supermajors Shell and BP, have already set voluntary targets to curb methane emissions.