5 Ways Industries Can Reduce Methane Emissions & Curb Climate Change

Renewable Energy /
5 Ways Industries Can Reduce Methane Emissions & Curb Climate Change

Whenever you hear about the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change, you typically hear about carbon dioxide. However, while CO₂ is the most common greenhouse gas in the atmosphere, methane (CH₄) is second.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), methane makes up 16% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. And while that may be a far cry from carbon dioxide’s 76% share, the EPA notes that methane is more than 25 times as potent as CO₂.

Naturally, this begs the question: How can methane be reduced?

Most methane comes from coal, oil and gas production, agricultural practices, and landfills. In this short guide to methane reduction, we’ll look at five ways industries can help fight climate change by addressing these sources.

1. Reducing Fossil Fuel Usage

The most significant source of methane gas is the non-renewable energy sector. In 2020, gas and petroleum systems produced 32% of U.S. methane emissions, while coal mining took up another 6%.

The extraction, storage, and transportation of fuels like oil, natural gas, and coal release methane gas into the atmosphere. For example, coal mines intentionally vent methane to avoid unsafe conditions within the mine—but they also leak methane gas long after they shut down.

As per NASA’s Earth Observatory, these activities put around 97 million metric tons of methane into our atmosphere each year.

Because methane is released at every stage of the oil and gas production process, reducing or eliminating fossil fuel usage is crucial in curbing climate change.

While you can take action personally by opting for public transit or using energy-efficient appliances, the real change needs to come from the business sector. As a business, you can reduce your reliance on fossil fuels by:

  • Setting short- and long-term sustainability targets
  • Developing an energy-efficient supply chain
  • Buying renewable energy

2. Cutting Greenhouse Gas Emissions

While methane gas is a byproduct of extracting and refining fossil fuels, it’s also a product of burning gasoline. Although the amount of methane released by a single passenger vehicle is relatively small, when you account for every car and truck on the road—as well as planes and cargo ships—the numbers can add up.

There are various strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. These include:

  • Switching to cleaner energy sources – Swapping out gasoline-powered vehicles for solutions that run on compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, or electricity lower organizational emissions.
  • Buying local – The farther goods travel, the more fossil fuel is burned. Sourcing and refining raw materials from nearby locations can reduce the total greenhouse gasses emitted during transportation.
  • Avoid flying – According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), aviation contributes around 3.5% of the planet’s total radiative forcing (a measurement of overall global warming). So, the next time you need to meet with an international client or supplier, consider making it a Zoom meeting instead.

3. Improving Technology

As with many issues, new technology is a path forward in the fight against excessive methane emissions. From satellites that track methane emissions to cutting-edge methane capture technologies, there’s plenty of progress happening.

In the oil and gas industry, some available or emerging options include:

  • Leak detection technology – Methane can leak from plants and pipelines throughout the supply chain. Using sensors to detect (and repair) methane leaks as soon as they occur can minimize gas release.
  • Vapor recovery units – By installing recovery units over crude oil storage tanks, oil and gas companies can reduce the methane vapor that would otherwise escape directly into the atmosphere.
  • Methane capture technologies – Instead of venting pure methane gas into the atmosphere, companies can capture and repurpose it. Collected methane gas can be burned as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels. Overall, it’s better to burn methane than let it escape into the atmosphere as is.

In other industries, these improvements may be as simple as updating outdated technologies and swapping them out for updated, eco-friendly models. If you develop technology, you can focus your work on designing green solutions for other industries.

4. Reducing Landfill Waste

When it comes to generating methane, organic waste is a significant culprit. As solid waste such as wood, paper, and food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane gas into the atmosphere. In fact, 17% of 2020 methane emissions in the United States came from landfills.

Industries can help reduce methane emissions by sending as little waste to landfills as possible. Here are some strategies to cut waste as an organization:

  • Track your overall waste output
  • Purchase only what you need
  • Reuse products, equipment, and packaging whenever possible
  • Recycle or donate anything you can’t reuse
  • Start a composting program

If you still need convincing, reducing landfill waste doesn’t just help the planet—it can also save you money by lowering disposal costs.

Along with cutting back on the waste that heads to landfills, industries can also harness the methane gas that existing landfills create. Burgeoning technology can capture landfill gas and use it as an affordable energy source.

5. Improving Agricultural Production Processes

Believe it or not, cows, pigs, and sheep are the worst contributors to methane emissions. Or, more specifically, the agriculture industry that raises these domestic livestock animals.

There are two sources of agriculture-related methane emissions:

  • Enteric fermentation – When livestock animals digest their food, they naturally release methane gas via enteric fermentation.
  • Manure storage – Manure from livestock animals is often stored in holding tanks before use. During that time, it releases methane into the environment.

Together, these agricultural processes accounted for 36% of U.S. methane emissions in 2020. Other agriculture-related activities add even more methane to the atmosphere. These include flooding rice paddies and burning crops or sections of a forest (which also removes CO₂-absorbing trees).

If you work in agriculture or related industries, there are various steps you can take to lower methane emissions:

  • Changing livestock diets – The current diet for livestock animals leads to significant methane production. A change in feed can drastically reduce the amount of enteric methane emissions cattle produce. For example, adding some varieties of seaweed to livestock feed has been shown to cut enteric fermentation emissions by more than half.
  • Selective breeding – One of the reasons that livestock animals emit so much methane is that there are billions of them. Farmers who work to raise healthier, more productive animals with longer lives can reduce the overall methane emissions per unit of animal product.
  • Cover manure storage facilities – When left uncovered, lagoons and holding tanks full of manure release methane gas. By creating a closed system, producers can ensure that methane stays put.

Of course, if you don’t work directly with the agriculture industry, it’s more challenging to have an impact. However, businesses in all sectors can send a message to agricultural producers by encouraging employees to consume fewer animal products.

Join FASTECH In Battling Climate Change With Alternative Energy Solutions

The U.S. Government has pledged to reduce methane emissions by 30% from 2020 to 2030. By implementing the above changes in your industry, you can take action and join the fight against climate change, too.

At FASTECH, we provide energy solutions—from engineering and construction to maintenance and testing—designed to mitigate and reverse the effects of global warming. Especially with our efforts to increase the adoption of green hydrogen, we’re helping to reduce the impact of CO₂, methane, and other GHGs.

Get in touch with us today to learn more about our products and services.

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