Canada’s upstream oil and natural gas industry works to reduce air emissions associated with exploration and development activities through project design, operational excellence, innovation and technology.

Air Quality Management

Air management in Canada is a shared responsibility between industry, and the provincial and federal governments. The focus for air management is on air emissions, including greenhouse gases, pollutants and odours. Canada’s oil and natural gas industry is always looking for innovative ways to reduce emissions and improve air quality.

Emissions in Canada

Canada, with 0.5% of the world’s population, produces less than 1.5% of global CO2 equivalent emissions. The oil sands accounts for 11% of Canada’s GHG emissions and about 0.15% of global GHG emissions.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are important in a global context. Other air emissions associated with oil and natural gas development are important at the local level. These emissions include nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and fine particulate matter, which are primarily created through fuel combustion in facilities and vehicles. Methane emissions are a focus in the natural gas industry.

Air Quality Regulations

Breathing clean air is something we take for granted and is essential for the high quality of life Canadian’s have come to expect. Effectively managing industry’s impact on air quality is a priority. Canada’s oil and natural gas industry operates in one of the world’s most stringent regulatory environments, with both federal and provincial or territorial regulations to help protect Air, Land and Water.

Provinces use comprehensive systems to manage air quality including regulation of industrial emissions, air monitoring, setting air quality objectives and reporting of the air quality health index. In British Columbia, the air quality regulatory framework is managed through the Environmental Management Act and Waste Discharge Regulation.

Air Quality Regulation in Alberta

Alberta has a comprehensive air quality management system that is used to address air issues and concerns. This comprehensive approach to managing air quality includes industrial approvals, ambient air monitoring, management frameworks and regional planning.

Alberta was the first North American jurisdiction to introduce a GHG emission reduction policy, which is currently one of the most rigorous in the world. The Government of Alberta’s climate plan includes measures that:

  • Put a price on greenhouse gas emissions
  • Will end coal-generated electricity by 2030
  • Will reduce methane emissions by 45% by 2025

Air Quality Monitoring

Over the past 40 years, the Government of Alberta has been conducting environmental monitoring activities under the Environment Protection and Enhancement Act. As natural resource development activities have increased significantly in that time – particularly within the oil sands region in northern Alberta – the province has recognized the need to strengthen its monitoring, evaluation and reporting activities, especially in terms of understanding the cumulative effects and impact on the Columbia, the air quality regulatory framework is managed through the Environmental Management Act and Waste Discharge Regulation.

For the natural gas industry, authorizations are required to discharge emissions into the environment. In Alberta and British Columbia, large industrial facilities are required to report their emissions.

Managing Odours is a Shared Responsibility

Responsibility for air quality issues such as odour, is shared between operators and regulators through best practices, compliance assurance and enforcement. An example of industry collaboration managing odours from upstream natural gas develop is the work done through the Alberta Clean Air Strategic Alliance (CASA). CASA’s Good Practices Guide for Odour Management in Alberta explains some of the most common tools and practices used in assessing, preventing and managing odours. The guide brings together a wealth of information that industry, regulators and government can use to develop odour management plans or requirements.