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    Australia’s Dirty Little Secret

    Scientists know exactly how much methane is emitted every day all around the world. They say that emissions are increasing at record levels. What has not been monitored exactly is where about half that methane comes from. With the help of satellites that is beginning to change.

    For the whole month of July 2021 I devoted myself to studying about methane. What I learned was disconcerting to say the least. I am now beginning to see the bigger picture so am gaining the confidence to write about it. As always with mining and politics you have to follow the money.

    Methane is a much more damaging gas than CO2 but does not actually stick around as long. It eventually turns into CO2. After about 15 years. I knew vaguely that it was emitted by gas wells, coal mines, pipelines, cows, from the ocean in the form of methane “bombs” and from melting tundra. I just never knew how much and that emissions were still increasing. Given all that we know right?

    I studied what was happening in my own backyard and learned that the methane emissions from just the coal mines in just one valley in Australia were the equivalent to the total carbon emissions of an average sized European country.

    You can understand that I was feeling more and more concerned by the day. Things then got worse when I found out that the emissions from the wells and mines in Australia were being grossly under reported and could be lowered very easily.

    Australia has no laws that require mining companies to report emissions or to tell the truth when submitting estimates of them. No wonder methane emissions are rising at record levels every day. These companies are profit driven and repairing leaks costs money. Not much but enough. Worldwide it is estimated that around $10 billion USD a year is being spent on repairing leaks. If that was raised to just $100 billion a huge amount of methane could be captured. Maybe as much as half of the present emissions. It has become clear that these companies and the government are or should be aware that things are around 3 times as bad as we think in many mines. Overall things in Australia are about twice as bad as we have been led to believe.

    This dirty secret makes a mockery of Australia’s 43% by 2030 reduction targets. To have the affect we have been promised they actually need to be around 70%.

    For about 5 years satellites have been able to detect methane hotspots and measure roughly how much of the dangerous gas is leaking. Companies like geospatial analytics firm Kayrros have gone to miners and to the Australian government offering to do tracking. They have been repeatedly rebuffed. The United Nations now have an International Methane Emissions Observatory.

    Over 100 countries have pledged to reduce methane emissions. Australia disappointingly refuses to do this.

    It is in Australia’s financial interests to keep the secret under wraps for as long as it can get away with it.


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