US officials are reportedly in serious talks with Turkmen counterparts on a climate crisis deal that would help Turkmenistan curb its vast emissions of super-pollutant methane.
Bloomberg on May 31 reported the progress in sealing such an agreement with the remote Central Asian nation, noting that an accord could be seen as a major breakthrough in the global fight against climate change and as a diplomatic coup for US President Joe Biden. Turkmenistan’s methane leaks are so enormous that they exceed the UK’s annual carbon emissions, satellite data produced by Kayrros for the Guardian revealed in early May.
bne IntelliNews in late April reported on how US Secretary of State Antony Blinken raised the matter of Turkmenistan’s huge methane leakage when he met with Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov in Washington to discuss the United States-Turkmenistan bilateral partnership amid the countries’ annual consultations. If a US-Turkmen effort on dealing with the methane emissions is agreed it could grate with Moscow, which is wary of any growing US influence in its Central Asian backyard. But such a deal would mean some badly needed good news on methane emissions for groups campaigning for speedier action on global warming. They have perceived Turkmenistan as ‘fiddling while gas leaks’.
The deal could see the US providing financial support and expertise to help the Central Asian dictatorship plug leaks that allow the planet-warming gas – with 80 times more impact on warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year horizon – to spew out from Turkmenistan’s ageing fossil fuel infrastructure, according to senior US State Department officials and people familiar with the negotiations cited by Bloomberg.
There is said to be optimism that an agreement will be reached within months. That would enable Washington and Ashgabat to announce it before the United Nations COP28 climate summit that starts in November, with work perhaps under way at pilot sites by the end of the year.
Experts have said that most of the leaks could be fixed relatively easily and quickly if Turkmenistan provides access. Potential fixes include relighting extinguished flares, replacing old equipment and upgrading oil well operations.
The current state of affairs means that around 7% of Turkmenistan’s gas is going to waste, the quoted US State Department officials said, citing estimates from the International Energy Agency (IEA) and World Bank.
Bloomberg also reported: “Capturing more of Turkmenistan’s gas would still produce CO2 emissions when it’s eventually combusted for energy. But the overall global warming impact would be much lower. If all the gas that’s leaked or vented by Turkmenistan’s energy sector was salvaged and burned instead, it would have roughly the same effect as wiping out about 92mn tonnes of CO2 each year, according to calculations by Bloomberg Green. That’s about twice the total amount of carbon that can be captured from smokestacks globally today.”
“It adds to the fire a bit to get countries moving on this,” Jonathan Banks, global director of methane pollution prevention at the Clean Air Task Force, a climate group that advocates for the curbing of methane emissions, was reported as saying by the news agency. “Algeria needs to see this and go: ‘OK, Turkmenistan got boatloads of money and all this technical assistance and support to do this, we should be doing that too [with our methane difficulties].’”