Canada’s oil and natural gas industry is actively working to reduce environmental impacts through project design, operational excellence, innovation, and clean technology. Innovation and technology advances are important not only to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but also to reduce impacts on air, land and water.
Reducing Emissions: Cleantech
Canadian natural gas and oil producers are secure suppliers of sustainable energy AND global leaders in emission reduction innovation and technology.
By developing and building new clean technologies from equipment to processes for oil and natural gas production, Canada’s industry can increase production and lower emissions over the long term.
CAPP members agree that producing lower emission oil and natural gas will give Canada’s industry a competitive advantage in global markets while also enabling the industry to be a critical part in lowering global emissions from energy production.
The industry is committed to environmental leadership and working to be constructive and solution-oriented partners in addressing the triple challenge of emission reduction, energy security and affordability. CAPP is continuing efforts and working in earnest to further our understanding of the technologies, innovations and policy frameworks that will drive additional progress.
Did You Know?
Largest Spender in Environmental Protection
The natural gas and oil industry is a significant investor in clean technology: and we are the largest spender in environmental protection – precisely because the industry understands the scale of this challenge. The industry spent over $3 billion on overall environmental protection in 2019. (Source: Statistics Canada Capital and operating expenditure)
Spotlight: Industry in Action
For example, advancements in hydraulic fracturing and multi-well drilling from a single well pad have not only unlocked natural gas resources that were previously uneconomical to develop, but also reduced the overall surface footprint of drilling activities. Several horizontal wells drilled from a multi-well pad can access a greater area of the reservoir from a smaller piece of land than vertical wells drilled from single-well pads. A 20-well pad disturbs about 5% of the land required for an equal number of vertical wells.
While oil and natural gas companies are competitors, when it comes to emissions reductions Canada’s producers are working together, sharing research and investment to speed up the development of the best-in-class technologies.
Much of this work occurs through uniquely Canadian collaboration hubs, which were formed so the industry can rapidly develop and implement innovations that lower emissions and continuously improve our environmental performance:
- Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC)
- Clean Resource Innovation Network (CRIN)
- Natural Gas Innovation Fund (NGIF)
- Petroleum Research Newfoundland and Labrador (PRNL)
- Pathways Alliance (now incorporating the former Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance – COSIA)
- Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) based in Saskatchewan
- Government-based initiatives such as Alberta Innovates, Emissions Reduction Alberta, Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC), B.C. Innovation Council (BCIC) and the BC Oil and Gas Resource Innovation Society (OGRIS)
- Independent partnership organizations, post-secondary institutions, and companies’ own internal research.
Through these organizations and relationships, the industry takes a collaborative, solutions-oriented approach to inventing and investing in clean technologies focused on achieving emission reductions and other environmental performance.
Developing New Technology is Key
Canadian oil and natural gas producers are cleantech experts, with decades of investing in emissions reduction, water protection and other environmental innovations. The industry’s expertise and technology are transferrable to other large-emitting industries from mining to cement manufacture, plus downstream oil and natural gas activities such as petrochemicals and refining.
Developing technologies is complicated: from concept through engineering design, testing at lab scale, then at field scale, and finally commercialization, this is often a multi-year journey. Industry is investing and collaborating to develop the cleantech needed to keep Canada’s natural gas and oil industry at the leading edge. Technologies that have been deployed at commercial scale are improving environmental performance today, and the potential for more, ongoing improvements by inventing and using new technologies is huge.
Spotlight: Industry in Action
Kathairos Solutions invents simple solution to eliminate methane solutions
Calgary startup partners with industry on cleantech that’ll help oil and gas companies meet greenhouse gas reduction targets.
In October 2021, CAPP released a detailed report detailing current and emerging emissions-reduction technologies and citing examples. Some of the leading current technologies that reduce emissions are:
- Carbon capture, utilization and storage (CCUS) – captures carbon dioxide (CO2) from large sources, which can be permanently stored underground in stable geological formations, used to enhance oil production from mature reservoirs, or used to create value-added products. Examples include the Quest Carbon Capture facility near Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta and the Aquistore facility that captures emissions from SaskPower’s Boundary Dam coal-fired electricity generation plant near Estevan, Sask.
- Fuel switching – emissions reductions can be achieved through switching from diesel to natural gas, and improved efficiency in equipment and processes at facilities of all sizes.
- Methane emissions – in the oil and natural gas industry, methane is released when natural gas is flared or vented. Methane is also released in small leaks, called fugitive emissions, from valves and other equipment used in drilling and production. Canada has mandated a reduction in methane emissions of 40 to 45% below 2012 levels by 2025. A report released by the Government of Alberta in January 2022 shows the industry is on track to achieve the methane emissions reduction target.
- Cogeneration – producers can use waste heat to generate electricity, reducing emissions by avoiding additional fuel combustion for electricity generation. Many oil sands operations use cogeneration.
- Electrification – oil and natural gas production located near hydroelectricity sources can use that clean electricity to power all or part of an oil or natural gas facility. Renewable power generation from wind or solar is another option. Using hydroelectricity to operate upstream natural gas production in northeastern B.C. offers opportunities to reduce overall emissions from production of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Results: Reducing Emissions Through Clean Technologies
Across the industry, proven technologies have already achieved results. Research and new innovations will continue to help the industry improve environmental performance, especially emissions reduction.
- Natural gas, natural gas liquids and condensate – from 2011 to 2019, emissions intensity decreased by 33% in this sector. During the same period, natural gas production in B.C. doubled and there was an increase in liquids-rich natural gas production in both B.C. and Alberta. (Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada National Inventory Report 2021, Canada Environmental Regulator, Envirotech Engineering)
- Oil sands mining operations – emissions intensity reduction of 14% between 2013 and 2019 while production increased 59%. (Source: Alberta Environment and Parks Alberta Oil Sands Greenhouse Gas Intensity Analysis, AER ST 39)
- Oil sands in situ operations – both steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) and cyclic steam stimulation (CSS) production, direct and indirect emissions. Data indicates an emissions intensity reduction of 8% between 2013 and 2019 while production increased 66%. (Source: Alberta Environment and Parks Alberta Oil Sands Greenhouse Gas Intensity Analysis, AER ST53, Environment and Climate Change Canada National Inventory Report 2021 Part 3)
- Offshore- emissions volumes from Canada’s offshore operations are low. Offshore operators have reduced flaring significantly through the Global Gas Flaring Reduction Partnership. (Source: Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board)