You may know there are several gases of concern when it comes to emissions and climate change. While most attention is on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, methane (CH4) is actually more potent because it persists in the atmosphere longer. The climate change impact of methane is 25 times greater than CO2 over a 100-year period.
In other words, each tonne of methane emitted is equivalent to 25 tonnes of CO2, so reducing methane emissions has a significant climate change benefit.
Methane is the primary component of natural gas. Methane emissions can come from a variety of sources, such as venting and flaring (planned, controlled releases) and fugitive emissions (leaks, unplanned or irregular releases).
Both Alberta and B.C. have methane reduction targets that align with the federal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change agreement: reduce oil and natural gas methane emissions by 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025.
Putting Energy in Action
While Canada is a world leader in reducing emissions from venting and flaring, we know better performance is necessary if we’re to reach our climate ambitions.
The industry has invested substantially in researching and developing new equipment and technologies – and we’re seeing results:
- Enerplus – reduced methane emissions intensity by 35% in 2021 compared to the company’s 2019 baseline, through installing air-driven pneumatic controllers and improved facility designs. New methane emissions intensity reduction targets: 30% by 2025 and 50% by 2030 compared to a 2021 baseline. (Source: Enerplus 2022 sustainability report)
- Crescent Point – targeting 70% reduction in total methane emissions by 2025, through technologies such as combustors, incinerators, and value-add applications to reduce vented and flared gas volumes and lower emissions intensity. (Source: 2021 ESG report)
- Birchcliff Energy – the majority of Birchcliff’s process instrumentation and control systems use electric or air-driven pneumatic devices. The company has identified all remaining pneumatic devices (which routinely vent fuel gas) and has developed a Methane Reduction Retrofit Compliance Plan to convert those remaining devices. Out of 607 surface sites, 544 (90%) already meet or exceed the new Alberta government methane emission limits that come into force in 2023. (Source: Birchcliff ESG report 2020)
To help achieve target methane reduction, the Government of Alberta has a combination of tools including regulatory requirements, market-based programs, and investments in technology and innovation. Programs that support technology and innovation related to methane emissions reductions include:
- Methane Technology Implementation Program – $25 million to support installation of readily available methane reduction technologies at conventional oil and natural gas facilities.
- Baseline and Reduction Opportunity Assessment Program – $1 million to help small and medium-sized operators to conduct detailed assessments of methane reduction opportunities and fugitive emissions.
- Alberta Methane Emissions Program – $17 million to fund investigating and testing alternative approaches to detection and quantification of fugitive and vented emissions.
- Emissions Reduction Alberta and Alberta Innovates – various methane emissions detection and reduction projects.
The bottom line: Significant progress
The World Bank’s 2022 Global Gas Flaring Tracker Report notes, “In 2021, the top 10 flaring countries (on an absolute volume basis) accounted for 75 percent of all gas flaring and 50 percent of global oil production. Seven of the top 10 flaring countries have held this position consistently for the last 10 years: Russia, Iraq, Iran, the United States, Venezuela, Algeria, and Nigeria, while Mexico, Libya, and China have increased flaring significantly in recent years. Among 30 nations covered in the report, Canada and the United Arab Emirates demonstrated world-leading performance by reducing flaring intensity from 2012 to 2021.
Continuous improvement in methane emissions reduction is the result of research, development and installing new technologies, and the outcomes are substantial. A report released by the Government of Alberta in January 2022 shows the natural gas and oil industry is on track to achieve the province’s methane emissions reduction target. Data shows the upstream energy sector reduced methane emissions by about 34 per cent between 2014 (the year the reduction target was established) and 2020.
That’s Canadian Energy in Action.