Atmospheric Methane Removal
Financing methane removal (MR) requires a price for it, which will be established similarly to the price for CO2 certificates. Both have the same goal, cooling the climate, or at least slow down Global Warming (GW). Methane (CH4) and CO2 are both Green House Gases (GHG) which must be reduced, The price for MR will be expressed in USD per ton óf methane removed. Supply and demand drive any price, therefore we will look at both.
Suppliers will remove methane from the atmosphere and will therefore (be certified to) issue MR certificates. At this stage there are no existing suppliers for MR, hence a price building mechanism cannot exist now. In future there will be suppliers of MR, and a sustainable market can be established. AMR hopes to be one of the first suppliers of MR.
Buyers who emit methane will be obliged to buy methane certificates to compensate their activities. These buyers will be in the oil & gas industry as well as in agriculture (live-stock) and others. The new US-government under president Biden acknowledges the need for methane certificates (compare this article in Politico 02/2021.)
Unlike a market for methane certificates the market for CO2 certificates exists, and there is strong and growing demand for CO2 certificates. The current price for CO2 certificates is around 40 USD (May 2021). Buyers today have an obligation to offset their activities, which contribute to GW, by buying CO2 certificates. Methane and CO2 both contribute to GW, hence it does not really matter if buyers buy CO2 or methane certificates. A common market for both would be useful, and we believe that it will be established. To form a market it will be necessary to make methane and CO2 certificates interchangeable. There are more Green House Gases, therefore a market for GHG certificates will be established.
A basket of GHG certificates
GHG certificates will include CO2 and methane as well as e.g. ozone or NOx certificates. The basket of GHG certificates needs global regulation to work. It contains certificates for different GHG, where the CO2 certificate is the anchor all others relate to. Therefore it is necessary to form relations between the different GHG and CO2. Each of these these relations expresses a static factor :
Example: 1 MR certificate = 10 CO2 certificates
Now the question is : How much CO2 removal equals methane removal, both expressed in tons removed from the atmosphere ?
Methane Removal versus CO2 Removal
Methane has an Absolute Global Warming Power (AGWP) 120 times higher than CO2. On the other hand methane remains in the atmosphere for only 12 years on average (12), after that it oxidises mostly into CO2. 1 ton of methane turns into 2.72 tons of CO2.
CO2 remains in the atmosphere for 120 years on average. It has an AGWP of 1.
Because of the different removal rates over time it is not possible to establish a useful relation between the two GHG removal certificates on AGWP, We must look at the time frame which we want to consider. The calculations of GWP over different timeframes have been done by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other researchers, so we can draw on established science here.
GHG certificates for 100 years
In practical terms we need to establish a market for GHG-removal for the next 100 years. Of course it can be argued that we are responsible for all of the next generations, but right now we are in a situation where we need fast, real-life solutions. Also we cannot forecast the situation for more than 100 years. Therefore it may be a good idea to limit all GHG certificates to one centennial – after that GHG certificates attract no compensation. 100 years is the timeframe used most commonly by the IPCC, therefore we are in sync with established science if we do the same.
Defining the relation
Now we can compare the two certificates. The GWP of methane on a 100 years basis compared to CO2 is, according to established science, between 28 and 36. We will modestly use 28. However 1 ton of methane removed does not vanish, it results in 2.72 tons of CO2. We do not really remove methane, we transform it into CO2. To make up for that, we have to subtract the 2.72 from the 28, which results in around 25.3. So now we can say:
One ton of methane removed is worth as much as 25.3 CO2 removal certificates. (This is by the way what the European Union calculates)
Finally there is another argument to be considered. Methane removal is far easier than CO2 removal. The price should reflect that fact. We hence reduce the relation to 10. Of course we could reduce it further, to 5 or 1, but that would not be right, because methane removal is 25 times more effective than CO2 removal and should attract a higher price.
A fair and balanced relation would therefore be: 10 CO2-certificates for one MR certificate.
10 CO2 certificates for one MR certificate
Now that we have established the relation we have a basis for calculating the income of an MRP.
An MRP will earn 10 CO2 certificates for each ton of methane removed from the atmosphere.
Current prices for CO2 certificates are around 20-30 USD / ton. If prices remain unchanged the MRP would earn 200-300 USD per ton of methane removed.
This is our calculation which is in fact a rather modest one, other authors calculate with a factor of 25 compare below. However please bear in mind that all calculations, optimistic or pessimistic, are based on assumptions which may or may not come true.
In this scientific paper from 2019:
Jackson, R. B., Solomon, E. I., Canadell, J. G., Cargnello, M., & Field, C. B. (2019). Methane removal and atmospheric restoration. Nature Sustainability, 2(6), 436-438. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-019-0299-x
This US Stanford University researchers wrote: „A price on carbon emissions or a policy mandate would be required; current market prices of $10 to $30 per tonne CO2 (for example, European Emissions Allowances; values in US dollars throughout) rise quickly to $50 to $500 or more per tonne this century in most integrated assessment-model scenarios of 1.5 ºC and 2 ºC stabilization. Such CO2 prices would generate potential revenues of ~$1,250 to $12,500 per tonne CH4 using a 100-year global warming potential of ~28 for CH4 relative to CO2 (and subtracting for the 2.75 tonnes of CO2 emitted per tonne of CH4 removed).„
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