Reducing methane emissions from natural gas development
The small leaks of methane from natural gas, called fugitive emissions, come from valves and other equipment, such as pump seals, pressure relief values, and control valves, used in natural gas drilling and production. These emissions are unintended, invisible and don’t smell. But their impact contributes to overall climate change. Methane is also released when natural gas is flared or vented in a controlled process. Flaring and venting in Canada’s natural gas industry is regulated.
Methane reductions are critical to achieve climate change goals
In Alberta, the oil and natural gas industry is the largest source of methane emissions. Of the total methane emissions, 48 per cent were from direct venting or venting from equipment which is a deliberate process, and 46 per cent came from unintended releases of fugitive emissions or leaks. The Alberta government recognizes that cutting methane emissions is the most effective way to accelerate GHG reductions and has set a target to reducing methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025 under their Climate Leadership Plan. This will be accomplished by setting new standards for new Alberta facilities, improving measuring and reporting of emissions and leak detection and working on joint initiatives for reduction for existing facilities.
Considered a leader in climate change and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, British Columbia’s efforts to reduce GHG emissions, including methane, are ambitious. The province has set out targets relative to 2007 levels of 65.9 megatonnes including: 18% reduction by 2016, 33% reduction by 2020 and 80% reduction by 2050.
In B.C., the regulator (BCOGC) has installed equipment that protects air quality by monitoring ambient air and detecting potential sources of airborne contaminants, including fugitive emissions, related to natural gas development. This equipment includes:
- Methane gas detectors
- Infrared cameras capable of detecting small leaks
- Mobile air quality monitoring trailers