Georges Tijbosch, CEO of MiQ (Methane Intelligence) talks to Fatima Sadouki, Senior Writer for HC Group.
Georges Tijbosch joined MiQ in 2019 as a senior advisor before becoming its CEO in 2022. In 2020, MiQ launched its certification Standard for monitoring and reducing methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.
The goal of this not-for-profit organization is to create a market-driven ecosystem where natural gas is differentiated according to its methane emissions. This framework covers emissions throughout different streams of the supply chain, from upstream production at the wellhead, gathering processing, pipelines, LNG liquefaction, to LNG shipping and regasification.
Monitoring methane emissions is made possible thanks to high-tech devices, computer modelling and technologies, including towers, sensors, drones, airplanes and satellites that detect and identify methane leaks at different points of the gas system. The providers of the monitoring equipment are all independent from MiQ so there is no conflict of interest in the certification process.
His current job at the helm of a non-profit entity looks very different from his previous roles. He started his career with BP, where he held various positions as a marketing and project manager for almost a decade until 2004. He then worked as a trader until 2016, leading energy sales for banks (Merril Lynch, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan) and driving origination activities for Centrica.
But his industry experience and commercial savviness are exactly what makes him the right man for the job. Tijbosch was on a career break (his LinkedIn profile cites a 5-year stint as a windsurfer in Spain) when a former colleague at an investment bank called him to discuss methane emissions and get him to join MiQ. “I want to solve this problem. For me, this job is purely a challenge. I believe that the markets are way more efficient to drive that change,” he says.
Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide. The oil and gas sector is responsible for about a quarter of methane emissions from human activity. Tijbosch says the need to tackle and reduce methane emissions is now widely accepted by the industry because a lot of work has been done to raise awareness around this issue. One major outcome was the launch of the Global Methane Pledge (GMP) at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, a collective effort to reduce global methane emissions by at least 30% from 2020 levels by 2030. The GMP has now been endorsed by around 150 countries.
But Tijbosch stresses that what is missing is a different perspective on how to tackle these emissions.
Abating methane emissions by 2030 can be achieved, he insists. “Methane emissions in the oil and gas sector are significant, 84 mn tons annually, or 7bn tons of CO2 equivalent. This is roughly the same as all cars globally. It’s going to be difficult to take all the cars and replace them with electric vehicles by then. But for methane emissions, it is solvable, the technology is available.”
“We can and must solve it this decade because of the impact on climate change. It is going to buy us time to do that long and complex transition from fossil fuels to non-fossil fuels energy.”
MiQ’s certification scheme is ultimately designed to generate a premium for methane emissions that are imbedded in the gas molecules. MiQ set a grading system on an A-to-F basis, with A referring to the lowest methane level.
The grading also takes into account companies’ policies in place to address methane emissions. “We see a big importance of the policies that companies use. For example, how fast do they repair a leak? Do they have proper procedures in place for dealing with methane emissions? How do they deal with flaring? How do they deal with tank venting? All of that is included in our standard,” he explains.
Scope 3 emissions
Tijbosch says the adoption of MiQ standard on its digital registry has been huge so far. MiQ is now certifying 15 Bcf/day in the US (150 bcm/year), compared to virtually none a year ago. “We can see that companies are competing with one another, for gas that generates lower methane emissions. Bilateral trades are taking place. We’re starting a market from scratch. The actual concept of differentiating gas is being gradually adopted,” he says.
Some of the early joiners on MiQ’s registry in the US include major producers like Chesapeake, ExxonMobil, BP and Repsol. More recently, local utility Washington Gas signed a deal with Chesapeake Energy Corporation and Ascent Resources to supply its customers in the National Capital Region (NCR) with natural gas that is independently certified by MiQ.
Tijbosh expects the current volume to grow in the US and other regions like Asia and Europe. Buyers are increasingly keen to understand and measure their scope 3 emissions, whether on a voluntary basis or because they anticipate tougher regulation. “This is what will drive the rest of participants to join. It's going to be a differentiating factor. Basically, for producers, it could become the entry cost as well,” he adds.
The grading system is not just about classification. The aim is to send clearer signals to investors and producers to invest in abatement solutions. “We believe that this is going to bring in the capital to the abatement part. It's not purely about providing this transparency, because then it's just measuring from measuring’s sake,” he goes on. “You can spend a huge amount on trying to determine methane emissions. But ultimately, what are you going to do with that information and how are you going to use it?” he challenges.
MiQ would like to see its standard more widely adopted, and not only by those joining on a voluntary basis. The organization has been actively engaging with regulators to promote and explain its certification standard. MiQ’s concept is totally scalable and the aim is to implement it from the ground up. “The best regulation comes from best market practises, not the other way around, because it's been tested in the reality rather than designed in whatever capital by people who don't understand. This is valid for any industry.”
Tijbosch admits that getting all governments to agree on one approach is difficult. But the aim is to at least integrate MiQ’s certification into the industry’s existing way of operating and mindset. “We want to see it ingrained just like with any ISO or financial standards or other credential needed for a credit check for instance,” he says.
In the meantime, building credibility in the eye of the industry is critical. Tijbosch insists on MiQ’s independence given that it deals with a wide range of stakeholders, including producers, buyers, tech companies, and auditors.
“We set ourselves up as not-for-profit, so that people can then rally behind it. It needs to be independent from the industry, but also from the technology providers. We also rely on third party auditors to do the actual audits. We want to create an ecosystem so that everybody has a clear role and can operate within it”.
This transpires in its organizational structure. MiQ is made of people with in-depth experience in the industry or top-rate experts in science or methane technology. “We are a bunch of experts. You need to understand the industry, see what makes it work, or not work. We've outsourced a lot of functions as well. Our structure is very similar to what you’d see in banks with lean teams.”
In addition to maintaining focus on its core mission, MiQ is placing a lot of effort in articulating a clear message. This interview is one of many, and Tijbosch is a compelling communicator. The sustainability and climate change space are complex fields, he stresses. “There's huge polarization out there and huge misunderstanding of the concepts for which our team has got a very different approach. We want to stick to fact-finding rather than the hype or the greenwashing attempts we see so often.”
Asked on how to ensure that reducing methane emissions is not an excuse to delay the shift away from fossil fuels, Tijbosch says he is used to this question. He adds that MiQ firmly believes in the energy transition from economies based on fossil fuels to a world with none or very little. “What we don't know, and nobody knows by the way, is how this is going to play out exactly. Everybody comes up with different theories and a lot of these theories got shot down after the Russian invasion into Ukraine.”
Solving the trilemma of energy security of supply, affordability and sustainability is going to take time. Tijbosch prefers to focus on navigating this transition. “I want this to happen as fast as possible. We also need to address the emissions that are taking place. That will buy us time to do that transition. We'd be idiots not to, because it can be done now,” he finishes.
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