Our paper on methane shows that across the value chain from crude oil/natural gas to chemical products (e.g. plastics), the largest contributor to methane emissions is the exploration of gas and oil. Methane emissions at refineries and chemical plants are very small compared to the amount of CO2 that these plants release. Methane emissions are due to incomplete combustion in furnaces and boilers of refineries and fugitive emissions. Therefore, methane in the chemical industry should not be the greenhouse gas (GHG) that companies focus on when reducing their carbon footprint.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas which has at least a 28 times higher global warming potential than CO2. It is after carbon dioxide the second biggest contributor to climate change. In addition, it is also a potent local air pollutant causing serious health problems. Reducing methane emissions is therefore essential to reaching EU’s climate targets as well as contributing to the EU’s zero-pollution ambition. In its methane strategy, the European Commission (EC) focuses on methane emissions in the energy, agriculture, and waste sectors. To have a comprehensive picture, the EC is examining all sources of methane emissions in the EU. That’s why the EC asked Cefic for more information about the methane emissions of the chemical industry.

According to The European Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (E-PRTR) data base, the methane emitted by the European chemical industry accounts for around 0.5% of total methane emissions from all EU industrial activities while emissions from refineries represent only around 1%.

For more information, please read the paper.