Originally posted on the ECOreport.
Some consider natural gas preferable to other fossil fuels “because it emits 50-60% less carbon dioxide (CO2) during combustion.” But over the course of its 100-year lifespan, natural gas’ primary component has “a radiative forcing greater than 30 times that of CO2.” According to the David Suzuki Foundation, “Methane is responsible for 25% of already observed changes to Earth’s climate.” New studies find British Columbia’s & Alberta’s methane emissions are drastically under-reported.
After surveying more than 1,600 well pads in northeastern British Columbia’s Montney formation, a joint study by the David Suzuki Foundation and St. Francis Xavier University concluded that fugitive methane emissions from the province’s oil and gas sector “are at least 2.5 times higher than reported by the B.C. government.”
“B.C.’s Montney region alone leaks more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air every year. This is the climate pollution equivalent of burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal or putting more than two million cars on the road.”
Newly published research by GreenPath in Alberta, including infrared camera footage commissioned by the Alberta Energy Regulator, surveyed 676 wells. They discovered that:
“the actual emissions at oil and gas facilities from pneumatic devices are 60 per cent higher than estimates used to compile Canada’s GHG inventory. To put this in perspective, these devices alone have the same short term climate impact as 9 million cars.”
Causes of these Emissions
Greenpath found that the causes of these emissions are:
- Deliberate venting of methane
- Equipment designed to vent methane
- Fugitive emissions from a variety of sources
- Malfunctioning equipment that goes undetected due to a lack of frequent monitoring
Benefits To Reducing Emissions
The Alberta study added that there are great benefits to reducing these emissions:
” … In high concentrations, methane can cause oxygen deprivation, resulting in loss of consciousness and suffocation. Leaks and venting from oil and gas facilities often contain compounds other than methane that could impact human health because they are toxic, even carcinogenic, or lead to ground level ozone and respiratory diseases.”
“Active emissions reductions would provide immediate climate and health benefits such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollution. There would also be economic benefits of action through the creation of jobs to detect and repair methane leaks and the potential to use and sell the methane rather than let it go to waste.”
Bring Canada’s Methane Emissions Under Control
Both studies concluded that it is possible to bring Canada’s methane emissions under control. The British Columbian survey suggested using mobile surveying to locate super emitting sites. The Alberta report suggests that “Federal regulations with clear requirements would lead to the greatest amount of emissions reductions, which would be beyond the 40 to 45 per cent target.”
“Cutting methane pollution is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to address climate change. The technology exists to eliminate industry-released methane,” said Ian Bruce, director of science and policy at the David Suzuki Foundation.
Photo Credit: Chart from CANADA’S METHANE GAS PROBLEM, Environmental Defence, p 3
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