Canada’s Oil and Gas Methane Opportunity

ICF Report: Many low-cost fixes available for to significantly cut methane

Report published: September 2015

An analysis conducted by industry research firm ICF International (ICF) shows that the Canadian oil and gas industry can achieve a 45% reduction in emissions of methane – the primary ingredient in natural gas and a highly potent greenhouse gas – using low-cost, readily available control measures.

EDF commissioned the ICF report and released it in partnership with the Pembina Institute, Canada's leading clean energy think tank. The report draws on data and comments from numerous organizations, including oil and gas producers, pipeline operators, equipment vendors, service providers and a trade association.

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Oil and gas sector methane emissions are one of Canada's largest sources of greenhouse gases, while oil and gas operations in Alberta and British Columbia account for nearly 70 per cent of that total. ICF reported sizable reductions are possible for Canadian oil and gas operators, if cost-effective technologies and operating practices are used to capture methane from key sources along the supply chain.

Achieving a nationwide 45 per cent methane reduction would be the same as eliminating 27 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, offering the same immediate climate benefit as taking every passenger car off the road in British Columbia and Alberta based on Statistics Canada and Canada's National Inventory Report data.

ICF's report reveals that attaining the 45% methane reduction is comparable to eliminating 27 million metric tons of CO2 emissions – providing the same immediate climate benefit of taking every passenger car off the road in British Columbia and Alberta.

Key findings of ICF's report

  1. Industry could cut methane emissions by 45% at an average annual cost of less than one cent per thousand cubic feet of produced natural gas by adopting available emissions-control technologies and operating practices. This would require a capital investment of C$726 million, which Oil & Gas Journal data shows is about 1 per cent of annual industry capital expenditure.
  2. The analysis shows that 90 percent of the emissions in the next five years will come from sources in operation today, and that the 45 per cent reduction across Canada is in addition to reductions that are achievable by current regulatory and projected voluntary actions by 2020.
  3. ICF reported upstream methane emissions in Alberta could be reduced by 45 per cent for C$2.57 per CO2 metric tonne and by 37 per cent in British Columbia for C$1.69 per CO2 metric tonne.
  4. At no extra costs, reducing methane emissions also reduces conventional pollutants that can harm public health and the environment. The methane reductions projected in the report also result in a reduction in volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).

This new analysis complements other research EDF is engaged in to help advance methane science and provide deeper understanding of methane emissions from the natural gas supply chain, in order to inform policymakers about opportunities to reduce methane emissions.

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