Cutting methane is the strongest lever we have to slow climate change over the next 25 years.

Inger Andersen
Executive Director, UN Environment Programme

Overview
Research Thrusts
Research Network
Research Applications

MIT Methane Network Mission.

Climate action scenarios that limit global temperature changes to less than 4oC require methane reductions. Yet the challenges of how this can be done are overlooked and underdeveloped. The mission of the MIT Methane Initiative is to drive down atmospheric methane levels by inventing new technologies, business innovations, and policy solutions in the framework of equity and social justice.

Integrated Research Approach

Guided by an understanding of Earth processes and Industrial activities, we seek to capture and convert methane emissions. Our approach integrates social, economic, and environmental metrics to address this critical need in the near term.

Understand

natural cycles & fluxes to inform earth-aware solutions

 

The dominant sources of methane to the atmosphere are from nature, but humans influence the rates of this methane release. By understanding how much, how, and why these processes contribute, we can design better strategies to reduce, capture, and convert methane and reverse the trend of increasing anthropogenic atmospheric methane accumulation.

The MIT Methane Network includes researchers who study the geochemical cycling of methane through precise measurement and

Title

isotopic tracing techniques, to specifically define which practices (such as land use) and processes (such as pressure anomalies) drive release events in those cycles.

Capture & Convert

methane via strategic, innovative pathways

 

Methane emissions occur at high concentrations from point sources and at low concentrations from distributed sources. These two types of emissions require very different strategies to stop and to capture methane. When concentrated, there is strong potential to convert methane to create value-added products, like new chemicals, materials, fuels, or as a source of “green hydrogen.” At low concentrations, it makes sense to eliminate methane in place for major climate benefit.

The MIT Methane Network draws on innovators from across the Institute to identify the most promising technologies and policies to advance near-term reduction of atmospheric methane levels. Read more below!

Create

equitable policy &
business strategies

 

No climate solution can bring real change without needed cultural shifts and societal adoption of new technologies. Viable business models, policy frameworks and public communication are needed to promote wide-scale implementation and adoption. Simultaneously, those business and policy solutions must curate a more equitable society and diminish disparities associated with climate burden and adaptation.

MIT Methane Network researchers include economists, communicators,

and social scientists that will evaluate the impact of our innovative technologies and policies on societal metrics, now and into a lower-carbon future. Importantly, we will test the efficacy and adoptability of policies to gain an understanding of their total impact and identify the most-effective solutions. In order to design technologies and policies that can be equitably adopted, communities, governments, and businesses will be engaged at early stages of our research and design processes through our External Advisory Board and strategic partnerships. Based on these integrated metrics, the MIT Methane Network will make strategic choices to accelerate the most positively impactful technologies through novel business, practices, and to encourage policy to stimulate near-term benefits to the Earth and its people.

Design & Plan

a social justice framework for phased methane reduction

 

Methane reduction’s ability to lower near term global warming is unparalleled, but long-term solutions to “come off the bridge” of natural gas and other carbon-based fossil fuels requires planning for a decarbonized future. This envisioned future of energy can and should be developed in the framework of social justice, so technologies, policies, and businesses work to strengthen society- and climate- as a whole.

The MIT Methane Network includes urban planners and developers,

architects, social scientists, economists, and engineers who will seek long-term solutions for strategic, phased methane reductions and delineate a path to a carbon-free or low-carbon energy sector. In particular, tough-to-decarbonize sectors such as housing and transportation, which currently rely on fossil technologies, will be examined for alternative solutions. This includes the strategic design of cities, low-carbon retrofits of homes for improved thermal efficiency, and reactor design for a “green hydrogen” economy. In this work, it is critically important to engage a diverse spectrum of human needs to understand key opportunities that will emerge in the methane and carbon energy transitions to a more sustainable future.

Sense & stop

Methane emissions from industrial infrastructure tend to be transient in space and time, making them difficult to find and stop. Our team includes researchers to design low

 cost sensors that can be placed around that infrastructure and connected to the internet of things to promote rapid find-and-respond strategies that are affordable for industry. Using advances in computer science, we can optimize sensor placement to maximize efficacy, and even identify and mitigate vulnerabilities to cyber-attack and natural disaster. Machine-learning strategies are being planned to help reduce signal interferences that can disrupt low-cost sensors. Policy, design, and economic teams work to help lower barriers to adoption of these technologies. These sensing advances can be applied to help mitigate methane in natural systems too.

Land use changes

Large emissions of methane can result from changing land use practices, such as draining peatlands or wetlands for urban development. Our geochemistry researchers

have deep knowledge of these unforeseen consequences of land-use change and can work with our economists, planners and social scientists to propose equitable, sustainable, and economically sound alternatives to land management in a way that promotes increased standards-of-living while reducing methane emission through thoughtful land stewardship.

Create value added products

At highly-concentrated methane streams, it is possible to not only stop methane from escaping to the atmosphere, but to transform it into resources for social benefit. The MIT

 Methane Network includes electrochemists, material designers, and catalyst designers who study conversion of methane to liquid chemical precursors (that could help make pharmaceuticals or plastics) or fuels, membrane scientists who help promote separations of those products, and reactor designers who think about how we can use methane as a source for clean hydrogen (with no greenhouse gas emissions) for a zero-carbon energy economy. These future breakthrough technologies, and good understanding of their economic viability, could one day alleviate the need for new fossil chemical extraction to meet our material goals.

Capture & convert at low levels

The majority of methane emissions (over 80%) occur at very low concentrations, which means the methane cannot be combusted. Methane abatement methods must be tuned to

work at low levels in air, and nature has evolved several approaches to achieve this goal! Using this bio-inspiration, our scientists and engineers are developing catalysts that can work at strategic methane source locations (such as cow barns or ventilation air methane near mines) to rapidly capture and convert methane. Designers and engineers on the team are exploring how to make materials out of these low-levels of methane. Important to adoption, the technologies must be cheap and motivated by the right policy solutions; the MIT Methane Network will work to develop affordable, job-promoting, socially-acceptable technologies and corresponding policy architectures to maximize near-term deployment of these important tools in the battle against climate crisis.

Click on a circle to learn more!

The dominant sources of methane to the atmosphere are from nature, but humans influence the rates of this methane release. By understanding how much, how, and why these processes contribute, we can design better strategies to reduce, capture, and convert methane and reverse the trend of increasing anthropogenic atmospheric methane accumulation.

The MIT Methane Network includes researchers who study the geochemical cycling of methane through precise measurement and isotopic tracing techniques, to specifically define which practices (such as land use) and processes (such as pressure anomalies) drive release events in those cycles.

Methane emissions occur at high concentrations from point sources and at low concentrations from distributed sources. These two types of emissions require very different strategies to stop and to capture methane. When concentrated, there is strong potential to convert methane to create value-added products, like new chemicals, materials, fuels, or as a source of “green hydrogen.” At low concentrations, it makes sense to eliminate methane in place for major climate benefit.

The MIT Methane Network draws on innovators from across the Institute to identify the most promising technologies and policies to advance near-term reduction of atmospheric methane levels.

No climate solution can bring real change without needed cultural shifts and societal adoption of new technologies. Viable business models, policy frameworks and public communication are needed to promote wide-scale implementation and adoption. Simultaneously, those business and policy solutions must curate a more equitable society and diminish disparities associated with climate burden and adaptation.

MIT Methane Network researchers include economists, communicators, and social scientists that will evaluate the impact of our innovative technologies and policies on societal metrics, now and into a lower-carbon future. Importantly, we will test the efficacy and adoptability of policies to gain an understanding of their total impact and identify the most-effective solutions. In order to design technologies and policies that can be equitably adopted, communities, governments, and businesses will be engaged at early stages of our research and design processes through our External Advisory Board and strategic partnerships. Based on these integrated metrics, the MIT Methane Network will make strategic choices to accelerate the most positively impactful technologies through novel business, practices, and to encourage policy to stimulate near-term benefits to the Earth and its people.

Methane reduction’s ability to lower near term global warming is unparalleled, but long-term solutions to “come off the bridge” of natural gas and other carbon-based fossil fuels requires planning for a decarbonized future. This envisioned future of energy can and should be developed in the framework of social justice, so technologies, policies, and businesses work to strengthen society- and climate- as a whole.

The MIT Methane Network includes urban planners and developers, architects, social scientists, economists, and engineers who will seek long-term solutions for strategic, phased methane reductions and delineate a path to a carbon-free or low-carbon energy sector. In particular, tough-to-decarbonize sectors such as housing and transportation, which currently rely on fossil technologies, will be examined for alternative solutions. This includes the strategic design of cities, low-carbon retrofits of homes for improved thermal efficiency, and reactor design for a “green hydrogen” economy. In this work, it is critically important to engage a diverse spectrum of human needs to understand key opportunities that will emerge in the methane and carbon energy transitions to a more sustainable future.

Research Network

Plata, Desiree

Amin, Saurabh

Hart, John

Harvey, Charles

Hemond, Harold

Henry, Asegun

Hsu, David

Johnson, Jeremiah

Karplus, Valerie

Kennedy, Sheila

Kulik, Heather

Mueller, Amy

Norford, Leslie

Ono, Shuhei

Paradis, James

Román, Yuriy

Shao-Horn, Yang

Smith, Zachary

Strano, Michael

Surendranath, Yogesh

Swager, Timothy Manning

Trancik, Jessika

Yildiz, Bilge

Research Network

Research Applications