Methane - Tradewater


There are over 3 million abandoned and orphaned oil and gas wells in the United States alone. Many of these wells are uncontrolled sources of leaking methane because the original operators did not plug the wells after extracting the oil or gas, and then disappeared due to bankruptcy or other issues.

Why this Matters

Methane is a major climate polluter and the second leading cause of climate change after CO2. Methane is especially hazardous to the environment because:

It’s potent: Methane has an 84 times greater global warming potential than CO2 (in the short term), and is responsible for at least 25% of today’s global warming. 

It works quickly: Methane is a short-lived climate pollutant that causes the most harm in the first few years after it is released into the atmosphere.

It is already excessive: The current level of methane in the atmosphere exceeds the levels required to limit warming to 1.5 oC2.

It’s only getting worse: Every year, massive amounts of methane are released into the atmosphere, with a significant portion coming from human activity, such as unrestricted leaking gas wells.

For these reasons, the IPCC considers methane emission reductions to be the most effective immediate strategy for slowing global warming.

Our Solution

Tradewater is taking on this problem by finding orphaned oil and gas wells, quantifying the methane that would otherwise be emitted into the atmosphere, and then plugging the wells to prevent further leakage. Orphaned wells are defined as being unplugged, inactive and have no solvent owner of record.

Tradewater conducts two rounds of field tests to confirm methane releases and then coordinates with landowners and agencies to plan plugging activities. Tradewater hires qualified local contractors to remove surface equipment, fill wells with cement, and remediate the land, permanently stopping current and future methane leaks.

38266 & 14039 photo 1_Oct 2022

Plugging orphaned oil and gas wells permanently prevents methane leaks now and in the future.

The work is additional to any regulatory obligations and other government-funded programs.

The environmental benefit is accurate, because we directly measure the methane emitted by each well. When our teams have completed their work, the land is remediated for future use.

Tradewater conducts its work in accordance with a carbon offset protocol established for orphaned oil and gas wells by the American Carbon Registry (ACR) . Our work is verified by independent verification bodies and results in carbon offset credits issued by ACR.

The smart choice for sustainable investing: carbon credits you can trust.

© Copyright Tradewater 2023
Tradewater generates carbon offset credits by collecting and permanently destroying harmful greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the form of refrigerant gases through a safe, verifiable process. If not destroyed, these GHGs would eventually be released into the atmosphere.


Emission reductions are considered permanent if they are not reversible. In some projects, such as forestry or soil preservation, carbon offset credits are issued based upon the volume of CO2 that will be sequestered over future decades—but human actions and natural processes such as forest fires, disease, and soil tillage can disrupt those projects. When that happens, the emission reductions claimed by the project are reversed.

The destruction of halocarbon does not carry this risk. All destruction activities in Tradewater’s projects are conducted pursuant to the Montreal Protocol , which requires “a destruction process” that “results in the permanent transformation, or decomposition of all or a significant portion of such substances.” Specifically, the destruction facilities Tradewater uses must meet or exceed the recommendations of the UN Technology & Economic Assessment Panel , which approves certain technologies to destroy halocarbons, including the requirement that the technology achieve a 99.99% or higher “destruction and removal efficiency.” Simply put, this means that Tradewater’s technologies ensure that over 99.99% of the chemicals are permanently destroyed. During the destruction process, a continuous emission monitoring system is used to ensure full destruction of the ODS collected.


Some carbon offset projects necessarily rely on estimations or assumptions when calculating the emission reductions from project activities. Forestry projects, where developers make assumptions about the carbon that will be sequestered over future decades if trees are conserved, are a perfect example. Such projects sometimes result in an overestimation of the environmental benefit of the project.

Tradewater’s halocarbon projects avoid the issue of overestimation by consistently conducting extremely precise testing and measurement of the amount of refrigerant destroyed in each project.

  • Every container of ODS that Tradewater destroys is weighed by a third-party using regularly calibrated scales. The ODS is then sampled by a third-party and analyzed by an accredited refrigerant laboratory to determine its species and purity. These two steps combine to ensure that credits are issued only for the precise volume and type of refrigerant destroyed.
  • The destruction facilities that Tradewater uses continuously monitor the incineration process during destruction events to ensure that over 99.99% of the ODS is destroyed. This monitoring is mandated by regulatory protocols and is part of the verification process to which projects are subjected.
  • Tradewater accounts for the project emissions created during the collection, transport, and destruction of ODS, and the number of offsets issued is reduced by a corresponding amount. The protocols that we use also build in other reductions to account for substitute chemicals that will be used to replace the destroyed refrigerants. Tradewater publishes this information in the documentation for all its ODS destruction projects. These documents outline how the material was obtained, the project emissions calculations, the test results, and the amount and type of ODS chemicals destroyed, among other information.
  • Additionality

    It is a basic requirement of all carbon offset projects that the underlying project activities are additional. “Additional” means that the projects would not happen in the absence of a carbon market. Tradewater’s halocarbon projects simply would not happen – and the gases would be left to escape into the atmosphere – without the sale of the resulting carbon offset credits. This is because there is no mandate to collect and destroy these gases. It is still permissible to buy, sell, and use halocarbons that were produced before the ban. There are other reasons halocarbon destruction projects are additional:

    • There are no incentives or financial mechanisms to encourage halocarbon destruction. According to the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Program, “there is rarely funding nor incentive” to recover and destroy ozone depleting substances in storage tanks and discarded equipment. And collecting, transporting, and destroying halocarbons is time-intensive and expensive. The burden to collect and destroy these gases therefore remains prohibitive outside of carbon offset markets—meaning that if organizations like Tradewater do not do this work, nobody else will.
    • Countries are not focused on the need to collect and destroy halocarbons. The Montreal Protocol has been celebrated as a success because of its production ban. This success, however, ignores the legacy gases produced before the ban and is a blind spot for government regulators. In the U.S., for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a Vintaging Model in the 1990s to estimate the quantify of ozone depleting substances left in circulation. Based on the inputs and assumptions put into the model, the EPA predicted that no CFCs would be available for recovery beyond 2020 in the United States. But this prediction did not prove accurate. Tradewater has collected and destroyed more than 1.5 million pounds of CFCs globally in recent years and continues to identify thousands of pounds per week.
    • International carbon accounting standards do not require corporations to measure or track emissions tied to halocarbons, and refrigerants are specifically excluded from Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitments. These commitments derive from emissions reporting under the GHG Protocol, which requires companies to report on emissions only from new generation refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), but does not establish any obligation to report inventories or emissions of refrigerants still in use, such as CFCs and HCFCs. All these factors combine to make Tradewater’s carbon offset projects highly additional. As Giving Green, an initiative of IDinsight, concluded: “Tradewater would not exist without the offset market, so this element of additionality is clearly achieved.” The case for additionality is not so clear for some other project types, such as forestry and landfill gas carbon projects. For example, some forests are already being conserved for their beauty, or for use as parks, and generate carbon offset credits only because those conservation efforts do not yet have full formal protection in place to avoid deforestation in the future. Similarly, methane from landfills can be used to make electricity or captured as compressed natural gas, thereby creating additional revenue streams to support the activities, beyond the sale of carbon credits.