CSU, TotalEnergies join forces to create qualification standards for greenhouse gas measurement methods

natural gas pipeline

The global oil and gas industry emits tens of millions of metric tons of methane into the atmosphere each year. The potent greenhouse gas is responsible for more than 25% of the global warming we are experiencing today. Yet methane is difficult – even controversial – to measure accurately, and there is no universally accepted standard for how to compare and validate emissions measurement methods used by different countries, companies and government entities. 

Colorado State University Energy Institute methane experts are working to change that, partnering with a test center of a global multi-energy company, France-based TotalEnergies. The combined team will develop internationally recognized protocols to qualify methane emissions measurements. The project has received sponsorship and support from the U.S. Department of Energy and the European Commission. 

The CSU researchers are led by Daniel Zimmerle, director of the CSU Energy Institute Methane Emissions Program. The partnership will employ the services of the Methane Emissions Technology Evaluation Center at CSU, an industry- and Department of Energy-funded center headed by Zimmerle that tests emissions detection, quantification and modeling systems and conducts safety-related research on pipeline leaks. To date, METEC has tested more than 50 methane emissions detection solutions. 

TotalEnergies produces and markets energies, including oil and biofuels, natural gas and green gases, renewables and electricity.It has developed an internationally recognized facility to test leak detection solutions. TotalEnergies and Colorado State University will use their respective testing facilities and scientific expertise to: 

  • Develop protocols that test the accuracy, detection limits, and operational restrictions of measurement methods used for greenhouse gas accounting 
  • Develop a method for comparing measurements of annual greenhouse gas measurements from point measurements. 

To seal the commitment between TotalEnergies and CSU, Zimmerle attended a signing ceremony in Brussels April 4 that included officials from TotalEnergies, as well as the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy, who are supporting the partnership. 

“To this point, there was no standard that people could access to make their solutions viable around the world,” Zimmerle said during the ceremony. “I think we are taking a step toward that. There is a commercially enabling aspect to this that we find very exciting.” 

According to company officials, TotalEnergies halved its methane emissions at its operated sites between 2010 and 2020 by targeting all sources (reductions in flaring, venting, fugitive emissions, etc.) and introducing stricter design criteria for new facilities. 

In line with the Glasgow agreements, the company is setting new targets for its operated methane emissions for the current decade: reduction from 2020 levels of 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2030. The company has also undertaken steps to keep methane intensity below 0.1% across its operated gas facilities.  

“TotalEnergies has been striving to reduce its methane emissions for many years,” said Marie-Noëlle Semeria, Chief Technology Officer at TotalEnergies. “The reduction of methane emissions requires an accurate quantification of these emissions. Defining a protocol that certifies the accuracy of measurements and allows comparisons between equipment and continents is a must.” 

“There is a clear need for international engagement on methane measurement and reporting methods. It’s required if measurement results will be broadly accepted,” added Zimmerle.