Indonesia Underreporting Methane Emissions at Coal Mines

A recently released report has found that coal mines in Indonesia are underreporting their methane emissions. The report was compiled by Ember, an energy think-tank focused on accelerating the transition to clean energy using policy and data.

The company’s senior climate and energy analyst in Indonesia, Dody Setiawan, stated that the use of outdated methods was undermining the scale of the country’s methane issue. An analysis of data obtained determined that coal mine methane emissions totaled about 875 kilotons, which is almost seven times higher than the country’s 2019 figure of 128 kilotons.

Methane (CH4) is an odorless, colorless gas that occurs naturally and can also be produced in activities such as mining. This potent greenhouse gas has more than 80 times the warming power of CO2 over a 20-year period and is the second-highest contributor to climate change after CO2.

In addition to using outdated techniques to measure emissions, the largest country in southeast Asia appears to be excluding emissions generated by underground mines. According to the report, the country has 15 companies involved in the underground mining of coal. This doesn’t align with its 2021 statement to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate, where it asserted it had no companies involved in underground coal mining.

Overlooking methane emissions from underground mines is dangerous, particularly because methane leaks increase risks of explosion. Significantly underreporting methane emissions could jeopardize the country’s global standing because it is a signatory of the Global Methane Pledge, whose objective is to decrease methane emissions by 30% in the next five years.

Currently, Indonesia is the biggest exporter of thermal coal globally by volume. It is also the third-largest coal producing nation, after India and China. Thermal coal is utilized in the production of electricity while coking coal is an ingredient in steel and iron production.

Last year, the Indonesia Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources reported a 13% rise in the production of coal compared to 2022. Considering all adjustments and expected increase in production of coal, future methane emissions from Indonesia’s coal mines could reach about 10,007 kilotons yearly. The report noted that this figure is equal to about 30 million tons of CO2 and greatly exceeds emissions from land as well as forest fires recorded in 2022.

Global Energy Monitor’s project manager, Dorothy Mei, stated that the active participation of Indonesia in reducing methane emissions was important in decreasing overall emissions globally. She noted that the country needed to figure out how to monitor its emissions and improve coal mine and methane data accessibility to help achieve the Global Methane Pledge’s goals.

When all coal producers in Indonesia and around the world, including North American companies such as Warrior Met Coal Inc. (NYSE: HCC), all play by the same stringent rules geared to minimize methane emissions at coal mines, the harmful effects of this industry could be reduced to a minimum.

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