10 Apr 2024, 13:39
Benjamin Wehrmann

Methane emissions from German lignite mining grossly underestimated – report

Clean Energy Wire

Lignite mining in Germany likely emits far more methane than official data show, according to a report by NGO Environmental Action Germany (DUH) and think tank Ember. Based on data on coal production, coal mine depth, and data from Polish lignite samples to estimate the gas content of the German lignite at varying depths, the analysis showed that emissions of methane possibly are 184 times higher than previously thought. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO₂, especially when looking at shorter time horizons. For 2022, Germany reported methane emissions of about 1,390 tonnes from lignite mining. However, the research showed that the actual value could be 256,000 tonnes for that year.“The climate-damaging emissions from lignite mining in Germany are being grossly underestimated by the responsible authorities as well as in the greenhouse gas inventories and the German government’s projection reports,” DUH said.

The NGO criticised the fact that official methane emissions data are based on a single emissions factor set in the 1980s by a subsidiary of energy company RWE. Official German data suggests that the country emits only one percent of the EU’s lignite mining methane emissions – while it accounts for 44 percent of lignite production. Germany’s current methods are considered inadequate by EU standards, said the report. The upcoming EU methane regulation will require “deposit-specific coal mine methane emissions” established “on a quarterly basis” and taking into account “methane emissions from surrounding strata.“ Sabina Assan, methane analyst at Ember, said the country is “flying blind in regards to the second most important climate gas.” She argued that closing the gap between estimates and actual emissions should be the first step towards reduction. As a signatory to the Globale Methane Pledge, Germany has committed to reducing methane emission by 30 percent by 2030, DUH said. The organisation called for a comprehensive national reduction strategy across all sectors that includes concrete targets and measures, including especially for agriculture.

Germany aims to completely phase out coal fired-power production by 2038 and the fossil fuel saw the lowest use in more than half a century in Germany last year. However, the country’s lignite industry association DEBRIVrecently stated that the fossil fuel continues to be “substantial” for Germany’s supply security. The industry group said the reduction in coal power in 2023 to had been due in large part to a reduced total energy consumption of more than ten percent.

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