Tackling Energy Security and Climate Change with Open Source and Blockchain

Tackling Energy Security and Climate Change with Open Source and Blockchain

It started out as two separate projects at the Climate Accounting and Action SIG, a Hyperledger group focused on using blockchain and distributed ledger technologies (DLT’s) to solve climate problems.  

Bertrand Rioux, then a Research Fellow at the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, started a project to use Hyperledger and DLT’s to reduce methane emissions in oil and gas production.

Meanwhile, halfway around the world in Los Angeles, Si Chen, who had developed open source ERP and CRM software and runs an ecommerce company, started a project to reduce emissions in transportation and the supply chain with DLT’s.

Then the world changed.

War, trade embargoes, and soaring energy prices have sent countries around the world scrambling to secure their energy sources.  

Would this derail our last chance to reduce emissions and stop climate change?  

Amazingly, the answer is no in at least one important way: Reducing methane emissions from oil and gas production could both help improve energy security and help the climate at the same time.  

Here’s why: Each day at an oil or natural gas field, excess methane either leaks from the ground or is burnt (or “flared.”) This methane could also be sold as natural gas and used later  if it could be captured and transported. The amount is mind boggling.  According to FlareIntel, 260 billion cubic meters of methane is lost each year. This is 1.7 times the amount of natural gas Europe imports from Russia. It also has the climate impact of 1.3 billion cars — almost all the cars in the world, or nearly seven times the emissions of all the world’s airlines. 

Capturing and using this methane as natural gas would both increase the amount of energy available and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet while the energy industry is behind it with many new initiatives, a lack of data on methane emissions and lack of focus to reduce them has held back progress. To encourage greater momentum, several groups have started to produce certifications for responsibly sourced natural gas, but these certifications are often proprietary and opaque to the general public.

The Climate SIG rallied together to address this critical problem with a bold plan: An open certification of natural gas that could be transferred through the supply chain, running on open source software and through distributed ledgers, so that it could be transparent to regulators, investors, and the general public.  The solution involves four steps that combine the work of  Methane Reduction and Supply Chain Decarbonization SIG projects:

​​1.  Combine data from multiple sources, including company reports, government data sources, ground instrument readings, and satellite data, to calculate the total methane emissions from both leakage and flaring.
2.  Calculate added emissions impact from the combined methane emissions.
3.  Transfer the added emissions down the supply chain, from oil well to resellers to eventually the gas utilities.
4.  At each stage, certify the quality of the natural gas based on the added methane emissions.

This project has grown from the two original developers to a larger group. Even though the developers are from around the world and have never met in person, they’re working together the open source way. Through Zoom calls, wiki pages, and shared code repositories, they’ve been building a prototype for the Hyperledger Global Challenge while interviewing industry members, data providers, and government regulators.  

Being open source, the projects are open to new participants and contributors. For more information or to get involved, please see the Hyperledger Climate Action and Accounting SIG as well as the Methane Reduction and Supply Chain Decarbonization project pages.

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