Australia’s total estimated fugitive emissions for 2013 were 38.2 Mt CO2-e – about 7% of net national emissions. Oil and natural gas production, processing and distribution account for 31.4% of fugitive emissions. The remaining 68.6% was produced by the coal industry.
The fall in fugitive emissions shows the sector is becoming more efficient – improving seals and valves, and investing in new technologies that minimise fugitive emissions.
However, total emissions (not just fugitive emissions) from the oil and gas sector increased from 1990 to 2013. This is because production rose dramatically and many new major projects were being built.
But the increase in total emissions – 39.1% – was well below the increase in production, which was 55.6%.
It’s important to realise that increasing gas production – even when this entails an increase in emissions from gas operations – still delivers environmental benefits.
Producing more gas allows a reduction in the economy’s emissions intensity – or the ratio of emissions to economic growth – as gas replaces coal.
Using natural gas as a fuel offers serious advantages over coal. It also enables the use of solar and wind, which need gas-fired back-up to fill gaps in their intermittent output.
In addition, gas exports to Asia create global emissions benefits that more than offset the emissions generated by LNG production. For every tonne of greenhouse gas emissions generated by LNG production in Australia, up to 9 tonnes of emissions are avoided in Asia when this gas is substituted for coal in electricity generation.