Methane emissions have jumped so far this year even as oil and gas production has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
The report from Kayrros, which analyzes methane leaks through satellite imagery, found visible methane emissions jumped 32 percent in the first eight months of 2020 when compared with the same period in 2019.
The increase in methane is concerning because of its heat trapping powers — the gas is more than 80 times more potent than carbon emissions over a 20-year period.
“Despite much talk of climate action by energy industry stakeholders, global methane emissions continue to increase steeply,” Antoine Rostand, president of Kayrros, said in a release.
The U.S., Russia, Algeria, Turkmenistan, Iran and Iraq were the largest contributors according to the company’s analysis.
Though the U.S. is a leading contributor, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in August rescinded its regulations on methane emissions.
“Regulatory burdens put into place by the Obama-Biden Administration fell heavily on small and medium-sized energy businesses," EPA Administrator Andrew WheelerAndrew WheelerOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Former EPA chief to chair pro-Trump think tank's environmental center Lobbying world MORE said at the time, adding that doing so would give oil and gas companies “flexibility to satisfy leak-control requirements by complying with equivalent state rules.”
Methane figures grew even higher in other oil and gas hot spots such as Algeria, Russia and Turkmenistan, where methane emissions jumped by more than 40 percent.
The high methane levels come even as many companies agreed to scale back the production of oil as prices for the commodity plummeted amid a trade war and a halt on human activity due to the spread of the virus.
Though greenhouse gas emissions, in general, dropped in the early days of the pandemic, scientists say they have nearly returned to pre-March levels.