Once again, actual measurements at oil and gas facilities show that methane emissions are being massively underreported

New research published today in a scientific, peer-reviewed journal further highlights the need for Canada to update the way it measures methane  emissions from oil and gas facilities, and the need for strong federal regulations to plug methane gas leaks and reduce emissions.

 

The study determined that that total measured emissions were 15 times higher than the total reported levels at light oil and natural gas facilities in the region surrounding Red Deer, Alberta. Close to two-thirds of the sites reported zero emissions, and yet emissions were detected at those sites.

This adds to the mountain of evidence showing that emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, are higher than reported at just about every oil and gas facility, no matter the type of oil or natural gas being produced, the type of facility, or the province or region.

 

Infrared cameras (right) show methane emissions that can’t otherwise be seen.

 

Some of the oil and gas facilities measured would be classified as super-emitters – sites with large unintended emissions due to abnormal situations such as malfunctioning equipment. On average, three per cent of the methane produced at natural gas wells leaked to the atmosphere. The potency of those emissions make natural gas from these sites worse than U.S. coal in terms of its impact on climate change.

This is yet more evidence that federal regulations to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations—expected out soon—need to be strong. Secret documents reveal that the oil and gas industry is lobbying hard to significantly decrease how often monitoring of equipment and facilities that can leak methane needs to happen, and to make some of the other measures to reduce methane emission voluntary instead of mandatory. The study authors explicitly call for frequent, mandatory monitoring at all facilities because it’s hard to predict which will be super-emitters and when a low-emission oil or gas well might become a super-emitter.

Canada also needs better measurement and reporting of methane emissions so that the public and the Canadian oil and gas industry know the scale of the country’s methane problem. Better measurement and reporting will also help the federal government to further strengthen the rules to reduce methane emissions based on what these emissions actually are. Tell the federal government to pass strong methane regulations now.

 

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