bneGREEN: Turkmenistan responds to calls for action on immense methane leaks

bneGREEN: Turkmenistan responds to calls for action on immense methane leaks
East of Hazar, Turkmenistan, a port city on the Caspian Sea, 12 plumes of methane stream westward. The plumes were detected by Nasa's Earth Surface Mineral Dust Source Investigation mission. / Nasa/JPL-Caltech
By bne IntelIiNews June 13, 2023

Turkmenistan appears to be responding to pressure from the US and other countries for action on tackling its immense leaks of planet-warming super-pollutant methane, some of the worst in the world.

President Serdar Berdimuhamedov has green-lighted two initiatives aimed at cutting the remote nation’s gas and oil industry emissions.

Berdimuhamedov on May 29 spoke on the phone with John Kerry, the US special envoy for climate, on working up an agreement in which American parties would help the Central Asian nation curb its releases of methane. The deal could involve financing and expertise, but the fixes required are viewed as relatively simple.

One initiative approved by Berdimuhamedov is a 2023/2024 roadmap that with the participation of concerned international bodies will pave the way towards the Central Asian country joining 150 others that are already signatories to the Global Methane Pledge, which targets a 30% reduction of world methane emissions by 2030. The other initiative sets up an inter-departmental government commission that will also focus on reducing emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas. The approved initiatives were reported by nCA on June 12.

Methane emissions presently cause around a quarter of global heating. A surge recorded since 2007 may be the biggest obstacle to keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5C and avoiding the triggering of catastrophic climate tipping points, scientists say.

Turkmenistan was responsible for the highest number of methane “super-emitter” events in the world in 2022, the Guardian revealed in March, while satellite data more recently obtained by the newspaper showed that methane leaks alone from Turkmenistan’s two main fossil fuel fields caused more global heating last year than the entire carbon emissions of the UK.

“It is very encouraging that a global effort is under way to assist Turkmenistan to mitigate its methane emissions, and that local authorities are responsive,” Manfredi Caltagirone, head of the UN’s International Methane Emissions Observatory (Imeo), told the UK daily.

“But after the announcements, the real work starts to actually cut emissions,” he added. “Operators in Turkmenistan need to perform measurements on each of their assets, report transparently and mitigate effectively.”

Turkmenistan’s methane leaks are believed to mainly come from ageing and poorly maintained oil and gas pipelines and also from venting unwanted methane gas produced alongside oil.