Methane emissions from oil and gas facilities in Alberta and B.C. are much higher than previously thought and are being under-reported, according to two new environmental reports.
The David Suzuki Foundation teamed up with St. Francis Xavier University to conduct the first study of its kind in Canada.
They found that methane pollution from oil and gas facilities in northeastern B.C. is 2.5 times higher than what is currently being reported by the industry and the B.C. government.
“Our peer review research shows the true magnitude of Canada’s emission problem is much bigger than previously estimated by industry and government,” said Ian Bruce, director of science and policy for the David Suzuki Foundation.
A team of researchers spent two field seasons in 2015-16 in both summer and winter driving 8,000 kilometres with a methane sniffer mounted to a vehicle. They drove past 1,600 different well pads and facilities developed by more than 50 different operators to test for methane leaks.
They found methane escaping from a wide variety of sources.
“This methane was venting and leaking from oil and gas pipelines and connections, well sites for oil wells, and for fracked gas wells as well it was coming from oil and gas processing plants,” said Bruce in an interview with CBC News.
“The findings are quite staggering.”
The report estimates that 111,800 tonnes of methane is escaping uncontrolled into the atmosphere from the Montney formation, the province’s busiest oil and gas production area.
That’s equivalent to adding two million cars to the road every year. The researchers compared their findings with the overall oil and gas sector methane emissions in B.C. of 78,000 tonnes. There are no regional breakdowns for methane pollution.
Bruce said there aren’t strong enough rules to make sure anyone is keeping track of the methane pollution, and current industry numbers are simply ballpark estimates.
“There is not a lot of detailed actual measurements going on, and there’s no monitoring or enforcement of that sector to make sure someone is out there to measure this methane pollution that is being intentionally emitted into the air.”
The research was published in the scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics and is now going through a period of public comment and peer review.
As second report released Wednesday by the Toronto-based environmental group Environmental Defence estimates Alberta’s methane emissions could be 60 per cent higher than the industry is claiming. The environmental group took a close look at research commissioned by the Alberta Energy Regulator that was trying to measure untracked methane emissions from small oil and gas facilities.
The research, conducted for Alberta’s regulator by GreenPath Energy Ltd., included video of escaping methane taken by an infrared camera.
It shows the same methane pollution trends as B.C., said Dale Marshall, national program manager for…