Oil and gas methane emissions higher than thought: report

Research says methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

April 27, 2017   by CP Staff

CALGARY — Two new reports from environmental groups say methane emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector are higher than previously thought as debate continues on how urgently they need to be reduced.

The David Suzuki Foundation partnered with St. Francis Xavier University on a study that found the volume of methane emissions from oil and gas sites in BC to be at least 2.5 times higher than previously reported.

“Our finding is quite staggering,” said Ian Bruce, director of the Suzuki Foundation’s science and policy department. “BC’s methane pollution problem, and certainly Canada’s, is much bigger than previously estimated by government and industry.”

The peer-reviewed findings, drawn from measures at over 1,600 well pads in the Montney shale gas formation in northeastern BC, estimate that operations in the region leak and intentionally release more than 111,800 tonnes of methane annually.


“This is a concern because methane is a very potent greenhouse gas, 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period,” said Bruce.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Defence report highlighted data produced by GreenPath Energy Ltd. for the Alberta government that shows methane emissions in that province are 60% higher than previously thought.

GreenPath surveyed 676 oil and gas wells on 395 sites across much of Alberta’s gas producing regions and found the number of pumps and controllers on sites that could leak methane was much higher than reported.

Using the updated figure, GreenPath concluded that the five gas-producing areas it studied would have 489,951 annual tonnes of methane emissions from those devices, compared with a 2014 inventory that showed 306,213 tonnes of methane emissions a year from unreported venting in 2010 for all of Alberta.

Environmental Defence national program manager Dale Marshall said it was concerning that there seems to be an under-reporting of the number of devices on these sites.

“If there are many more devices than being reported at facilities, then either they’re under-reporting on purpose, or they don’t know. Either way it’s problematic,” he said.

Joshua Anhalt, president at GreenPath North America, said that while the number of devices was higher than anticipated, there’s still the potential for that number to go even higher.

“We’ve only looked at the tip of the iceberg as an industry,” said Anhalt.

The findings come as the federal government is delaying plans to cut methane emissions by at least three years, as industry pushes back on what it says is an aggressive timeline.

The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers’s submission on proposed federal regulations, released under access to information, shows that while they’re committed to reducing emissions by 40 to 45% by 2025 from 2012 levels, they would like government to delay initial deadlines.

The CAPP submission also said that while industry has already done work to reduce emissions, there is limited baseline data on methane emissions in the country.

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