Methane emissions from venting can be brought down to nearly zero without impacting the production of oil, say experts.
In a recent study published by the Pembina Institute, the authors look at methane venting in the Peace region of Alberta and show that emissions can be brought down to near zero.
Jan Gorski, director of the Pembina Institute's oil and gas program, said in 2014 the Peace region created strict rules around methane emissions from heavy oil production facilities to address strong odour issues experienced by the local communities.
As a result, methane emissions were captured in the region.
“[The results] certainly show the technology is there. We have policy solutions and they have been implemented and we can replicate this in other parts of the province to reduce methane emissions,” Gorski said.
As the provinces work to reaching their climate goals, this reduction shows what is possible when it comes to reducing methane in Alberta and the rest of Canada, Gorski said.
Companies didn’t flee the region either, Gorski said, and continued to do business in the region while following the rules.
“You know, they didn't pick up shop and go and produce oil somewhere else,” Gorski said.
The rules in the Peace region that were implemented didn’t allow companies to vent gas at all. Instead, they had to capture it and put it back in the pipe, Gorski said. Companies also had limits on flaring and non-routine venting.
Studies on menthane venting and flaring show that venting emissions from heavy oil are drastically underestimated — the amount of venting taking place is estimated to be three to four times higher than the current numbers show, Gorski said.
The practices in the Peace region are in alignment with best practices from regions across the world, including in Colorado and New Mexico.
“This also is something that has precedents elsewhere in the world,” Gorski said.
Earlier this year the Government of Canada released its climate goals, which stated the methane emissions from the oil and gas sector must be reduced by 40 to 45 per cent below the 2005 levels by 2013. By 2050 the sector must reach net-zero emissions.
Methane makes up around 13 per cent of Canada’s total greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, and around 21 per cent of the oil and gas sector's emissions, according to the federal climate document. Oil and gas facilities are the largest industrial emitters of methane in Canada.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), methane emissions are responsible for at least a quarter of today’s global warming.
Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette