Fuel supply

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

Not on track

Oil and gas extraction, processing and transportation were responsible for 5.2 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2-eq) emissions in 2017 – nearly 15% of global energy sector GHG emissions. Half of these emissions (2.6 GtCO2-eq) are from flaring and from methane released during oil and gas operations. In the SDS, these flared and vented emissions fall to less than 1.2 Gt CO2-eq by 2025. Quantitative emissions reduction targets by some companies and governments are a welcome first step to achieving this level, but an immediate step-change in policy ambition and industry buy-in is needed, along with technological progress on detecting, measuring and avoiding emissions.

Christophe McGlade
Lead author
Contributors: Glenn Sondak, Tim Gould

Sources of GHG emissions from oil and gas operations in 2017

	Methane 	Flaring 	Other
Oil	1079.10	265.04	1791.91
Gas	1288.00	0.00	803.01
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Back to TCEP overview 🕐 Last updated Monday, May 27, 2019

Oil and gas satisfy just under half of global energy demand in 2040 in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS). A key component of this scenario is that oil and gas are supplied in a way that minimises adverse social and environmental impacts: immediate and major reductions in flaring and methane emissions are central to this.


Recent quantitative emissions reductions targets set by international oil companies to reduce methane emissions and flaring are a welcome first step towards putting this sector on track with the rapid emissions reductions of the SDS.

Seeking to continuously reduce emissions is as important as setting quantitative limits, as is third-party verification and transparency on data and methods.

In addition, large volumes of methane are emitted from assets operated by companies that have not yet committed to any specific reduction targets.

Progressive companies should seek to build partnerships and expand their emissions reduction criteria to oil and gas produced from joint ventures and non-operated assets.

Policy and regulation

However, there are limits to what can be achieved by voluntary action. Policies and regulations will therefore be central to reducing methane emissions.

Commitments to methane emissions reductions can be an important addition to Nationally Determined Contributions aligned with the Paris Agreement. Although a key first step is to improve data gathering and reporting, a lack of detailed information on emissions levels should not preclude the introduction of abatement goals. Policies should concurrently seek to encourage operators to take advantage of abatement opportunities.

Policies should be particularly clear and unambiguous on the treatment of associated gas.

Fiscal terms should clarify ownership of associated gas volumes and encourage or require its utilisation: one option would be to approve new oil developments only if they include plans to utilise associated gas.


Financial organisations can also assist by increasing or renewing their willingness to provide funding for emissions reduction technologies in the oil and gas sector.

For flaring, large volumes of gas are often wasted in small-scale operations on an intermittent basis. A core challenge is to provide economically viable solutions to bring the gas to market, especially in offshore operations.

Fuel supply technologies

There are a variety of well-established technologies that can help to reduce flaring and methane emissions from oil and gas operations. There have also been some positive recent developments from both industry and policy-makers seeking to reduce these emissions.

However current technology deployment rates, policy ambition and industry efforts are far from on track with the pace and extent of reductions needed to achieve the Sustainable Development Scenario.

Methane emissions from oil and gas

Methane emissions from the oil and gas sector reached close to 80 Mt (or 2.4 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent) in 2017. This is equal to 6% of global energy sector GHG emissions. Emissions remain high despite initial industry-led initiatives and government policies announced recently. Implementing abatement options quickly and at scale remains a real challenge. Policies will be critical to achieve the 75% emissions reduction by 2030 demonstrated in the SDS. Further innovation is needed both to increase understanding of emissions levels and to help reduce the cost of emissions mitigation strategies such as leak detection and repair.

Global methane emissions from oil and gas operations

Despite some efforts by industry and policy makers to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations, a step-change in ambition is needed urgently to achieve SDS reductions.

	Methane emissions	Methane emissions (SDS)
2000	62.72	
2001	62.85	
2002	63.34	
2003	65.31	
2004	68.94	
2005	70.73	
2006	72.25	
2007	73.73	
2008	75.15	
2009	72.11	
2010	75.55	
2011	73	
2012	76.83	
2013	75.75	
2014	75.39	
2015	76.01	
2016	76.69	
2017	78.9	
2020		64.61
2025		39.85
2030		19.4
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Flaring emissions

Around 140 bcm of gas was flared in 2017, equivalent to Africa’s gas consumption. This is a slight decrease from 2010 but higher than in 2000. Most flared gas is converted into CO2, resulting in emissions of around 270 MtCO2. Russia, Iraq, Iran and the United States account for almost half of flaring globally. An increasing number of government and industry commitments aim to eliminate flaring by 2030, but most are voluntary. Under the SDS, flaring rates drop rapidly and are all but eliminated by 2025.

Historic and projected flaring by region in the Sustainable Development Scenario

Natural gas flaring decreases rapidly in the SDS, emitting less than 25 MtCO2 by 2025.

	Africa	Asia-Pacific	Central & South America	Europe 	Eurasia	Middle East	North America
1970	52	12.519762	50.722052	0.00864686	34.63151506	123.85883	40.61296
1975	64	16.803543	25.244286	7.00962527	37.29789461	165.516029	19.90578
1980	80	21.8532221	25.534428	9.67202071	35.0730818	136.09493	19.08784
1985	56	21.1536477	27.2013038	6.23991315	52.5720746	40.86576	16.38869
1990	68	26.04678857	26.806126	7.9854917	54.0107986	52.15157	14.30255
1995	85	19.94590296	26.4424544	8.990702565	55.0276818	28.4337005	24.45987
2000	67	19.92587022	21.0788146	8.921253262	65.1729482	45.53213	17.26972
2005	61	18.6053847	23.3619898	7.8642048	103.3990123	64.08123553	11.55068
2010	63	17.1769781	30.6237142	5.99521454	82.9683165	55.940256	18.66665
2015	56	17.661	29.622	5.558	80.757	63.290	24.397
2017	54	17.14646	28.7595939	5.39586407	78.405235	61.446779	23.68599
2020	32.3527269	11.084129	18.0114781	3.48298475	53.6684192	37.777659	19.689625
2025	4.41308276	1.49070121	2.0410699	0.43006735	7.0984036	6.0445194	2.905354
2030	3.8615244	1.21312001	1.80547702	0.300128955	5.90227053	5.7906274	2.551162
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