Author Archives: Drew Nelson

Vastly underreported emissions in Alberta’s oil patch reveal excessive natural gas waste

Alberta’s oil and gas industry is emitting at least 25 to 50 percent more methane than current estimates suggest, according to a new peer-reviewed study. Published in Environmental Science and Technology, a clear pattern of energy waste is occurring across Canada – a problem worth a minimum of $530 million dollars (CAD) of natural gas a year, or enough gas to heat nearly every home in Alberta.

Researchers indicate that the volumes of methane – the main ingredient in natural gas and a powerful climate pollutant – observed in Alberta are higher because two key emission sources, unintentional leaks and intentional venting of methane, are happening at rates much larger than the oil and gas industry reports.

This is not the first scientific study to draw this conclusion. The Carleton University research builds on previous studies underscoring the climate risks of an unabated methane gas problem, but widespread leaks and persistent venting are making the problem worse. Canada’s oil and gas industry is already the country’s largest source of methane emissions.

Aside from the energy loss and climate concerns, numerous pollutants laced with these emissions are known to degrade air quality, worsen smog and harm public health. Yet, many low-cost solutions are in hand to solve this problem. Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Comments are closed

Shell Canada launches methane technology pilot, and its timing is perfect.

This week, oil and gas giant Shell announced the launch of a technology pilot at one of its shale gas facilities in Canada that will continuously monitor methane levels and provide real-time leak detection to facility operators. This is a big deal and shows what can happen when companies, environmental groups and innovators work together to find solutions.

The pilot is a product of the Methane Detectors Challenge (MDC), a partnership involving EDF, eight oil and gas operators, technology developers and other experts that aims to spur next-generation solutions that can help the oil and gas industry find methane leaks more efficiently and effectively.

Shell is not alone. Other MDC participants include Statoil, which launched a pilot in Texas early this year, and Pacific Gas & Electric Company, which began a pilot in California in 2016. But the Shell project at Rocky Mountain House is the first MDC technology to be deployed in Canada, where the federal and key provincial governments are both developing regulations that will reduce oil and gas methane emissions.

The timing of this test in Alberta couldn’t be better. Read More »

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Four opportunities to strengthen Canada’s draft methane regulations

Canada’s move to reduce methane emissions from its oil and gas sector passed another milestone this week, as the deadline passed for stakeholders to submit comments about the proposed regulations to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). EDF issued extensive comments commending ECCC for moving forward, but urging decision makers to address some critical weaknesses of the draft rules.

EDF is not alone in this thinking. A group of investors from Canada, US, and Europe, which together represent $89 billion CAD in investments, released a synopsis of their comments. Many leading Canadian NGOs, including the David Suzuki Foundation, the Pembina Institute, Environmental Defence (no relation to this EDF), Equiterre, and the Blue Green Alliance, also issued a press release urging ECCC to improve and strengthen the draft regulations.

As Canada’s effort to regulate this potent greenhouse pollutant continues, EDF is focused on ensuring Canada takes advantage of low-cost reduction opportunities, which have the added benefit of improving air quality, eliminating waste, stimulating innovation, and creating jobs. For that to happen, the country’s draft methane regulations need to be strengthened. Read More »

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On methane regs, Canada must stand tall against industry

In a sign of growing recognition of the global methane opportunity, the Government of Canada today proposed new regulations that aim to curb methane emissions across the Canadian oil and gas industry. This marks the first regulatory package to be introduced by the Trudeau administration for Canada to meet its overall climate goals. Now that the proposal is out, the draft federal methane rules will be open for public comment before they are finalized later this year. The new rules, if passed, will reduce waste, save money, create jobs, pollute less, and have Canada keep pace with jurisdictions across the globe that are addressing methane.

Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas with over 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide for the first 20 years it’s in the atmosphere. A common byproduct of oil production, methane is also used widely in the form of natural gas. This means that there is an incentive for oil and gas companies to control these emissions and stop needless energy waste.

During the lead up to the release of the Canadian methane rules, however, the inverse proved true. The Canadian oil and gas lobby worked to weaken and delay implementation of the proposed regulations. Because of concessions that have already been made to appease industry, Canada now has ground to make up to retain its ability to deliver on its climate goals.

Here are four opportunities for Canada to do just that: Read More »

Posted in Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged | Comments are closed

New studies: Methane emissions from Canadian oil & gas industry are worse than reported

Two studies released this week make it clear that Canada’s push toward methane regulations for the oil and gas industry is a smart move. And, while data of Canada’s oil and gas methane problem is still limited, these studies reinforce what research of the U.S. oil and gas industry found: oil and gas facilities are leaking far more than the industry reports — and more than it would like us to believe.

The first study, focused on Alberta and released by the Canadian environmental action organization Environmental Defence, concluded that industry is underreporting the amount of equipment located at their facilities, which means they emit more than official emission inventories report. Additionally, the study found that Alberta’s oil and gas facilities average about one large emission source per well.

The second, conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation and focused in British Columbia, measured methane emissions at existing oil and gas facilities and found that emissions are large and widespread. In fact, in just one development area of British Columbia, facilities could leak 111,800 tons of methane each year – the climate pollution equivalent of burning more than 4.5 million tons of coal or more than two million cars over the next two decades. Further, methane emissions from this area were shown to be at least 2.5 times higher than reported by the B.C. government but may be much higher.

This new research is troubling for several reasons. Read More »

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Recent Methane Success in California Offers Blueprint for Mexico’s Energy Boom

Following energy reform in 2013, oil and gas industry expansion in Mexico is moving full steam ahead. The first round of bidding for Mexico-owned deep-water oil leases wrapped last December, ushering in a slew of private companies like ExxonMobil and Chevron for the first time since the 1930s. Additional leases for land that will become hotbeds for oil and gas activity on and offshore are planned later this year.

All of this is happening while Mexico is demonstrating remarkable climate leadership, and while countries and energy companies around the world are beginning to act on controlling methane, a harmful pollutant that routinely escapes from the global oil and gas industry. In other words, the Mexico energy boom couldn’t come at more critical time. Mexico ranks as the world’s fifth largest oil and gas methane emitter. Absent strong rules for future development, these emissions could steadily rise as more oil and gas production comes on line as a result of the energy reform.
Read More »

Posted in General, Methane, Natural Gas| Tagged | Read 1 Response
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