Field work – now mostly complete
We have driven extensive routes through developments in British Columbia (Montney), Alberta (Medicine Hat, Peace, Lloydminster), Saskatchewan (Bakken, Weyburn-Midale), and New Brunswick (Stoney Creek). The links provide maps that show driving routes that we repeated 3-6 times, normally in one season but sometimes in summer/winter to build some seasonal contrast. In each development we will have repeatedly (2-6 times) sampled air downwind and within 500 m of 1000-3000 wells and facilities. Field work is mostly complete, but we do have campaigns ongoing in Alberta to target several additional developments, plus additional work in New Brunswick near legacy infrastructure. We typically measure geolocated concentrations of several gases (methane, ethane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, carbon isotopic composition of methane) 1-2 times per second.
Our datasets are robust because of; the high sample numbers; the the high degree of replication; the use of control routes as ‘blanks’; and the defined minimum detection limits (MDL). Comparator studies usually lack all four. Furthermore, to enhance certainty, we tag infrastructure as ‘emitting’ only if we have detected anomalies more than half of the passes. We will conduct our analysis and release results in two phases. Phase I analysis will be used to define; emissions frequency (e.g. wells emitting / wells existing); severity; emissions frequency as a function of infrastructural class, development type, or operator size. Our Phase II analysis products will include more refined volumetric inventory estimates, product loss rates (as % of production), and/or methane emissions intensity of oil production. In both phases our focus is on large-scale industry trends, and for example we will not be releasing operator-specific statistics because our sampling routes were determined largely by road access, and we did not design the routes for representative sampling across operators.
Timeline and outcomes
In the short-term (summer-fall 2017) there will be 4 important outcomes from this work:
- Montney: This first Phase I analysis manuscript currently appears as a D-paper in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The good news is that super-emitters were uncommon, but the bad news is that we measured emissions more frequently that we expected (about half of well pads), resulting in an emission estimate above the provincial inventory. A ground study using FLIR cameras and bagging/volumetric measurement (the industry-standard technique) was conducted in parallel with the mobile surveys, and although sampled populations were slightly different, statistics were comparable between the mobile and FLIR methods. This study was sponsored by the David Suzuki Foundation.
- Saskatchewan: This Phase I manuscript will contrast emission patterns in the Bakken (unconventional) and Weyburn-Midale (conventional, EOR) oilfields. This is an interesting comparison because the developments are intermixed, contractors are the same, and differences are a result in either extraction mode or operator profile. We aim to submit a manuscript for publication in June 2017 and its public availability will be defined by the journal’s peer review process. This study was supported by a combination of industry, government, and a local non-governmental airshed organization.
- Alberta: This Phase I manuscript will contrast methane emissions across developments in Alberta where air issues have been common over recent years. We aim to submit a manuscript for publication in June 2017 and its public availability will be defined by the journal’s peer review process. This study was supported by industry, though follow-up campaigns (to be conducted in 2017) were matched with government funds.
- xCanada synthesis: This comprehensive Phase II paper will apply a more advanced volumetric modelling approach for an industry-wide snapshot. We will contrast developments by metrics like loss rate (gas) and/or methane emissions intensity (oil). We hope to paint a big (and constructive) picture, and to point at low-hanging fruit for emissions reduction. We are aiming to submit this manuscript for publication in August 2017 and its public availability will be defined by the journal’s peer review process.
In the longer-term these datasets offer significant opportunities for re-analysis. In the future we hope to investigate the episodic nature of emissions, summer-winter emission contrasts, and to highlight low-emitting developments, etc. These are all in the pipeline for late 2017/2018. In addition to the above, we’ve also made measurements at oil sands operations (several), Carbon Capture and Storage sites, and have also measured emissions from legacy wells and coal adits/shafts in eastern Canada.
New reports say Canada’s oil, gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. Toronto Star. April 26, 2017.
Methane pollution from BC’s oil, gas industry higher than provincial estimates. The Globe and Mail. April 25, 2017.
BC, Alberta methane pollution higher than disclosed, reports suggest. CBC. Apr 26, 2017.
Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry. The Coast. May 3 2017.
CAPP rejects findings in methane emissions reports. The Globe and Mail. April 26, 2017.
Scientists Find Methane Pollution from B.C.’s Oil and Gas Sector 2.5 Times What B.C. Government Reports. DeSmog Canada. April 26, 2017.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. Calgary Sun. April 26, 2017.
‘Staggering’: Canada’s oil sector creates far more methane than thought, study finds. Halifax Metro News. April 26, 2017.
Methane emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector. AM770 Radio. April 28, 2017.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. TBNewsWatch. April 27, 2017.
Reports say B.C. oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. Vancouver24hrs. April 27, 2018.
Scientists discover high volume of methane emissions at BC oil and gas facilities. Global News. April 25, 2017.
New science reveals unreported methane pollution from B.C.’s oil and gas industry threatens Canada’s international climate commitments. David Suzuki Foundation Press Release. April 26, 2017.
Oil and gas methane emissions more than twice B.C. government figures: report. Montreal Gazette. April 26, 2017.
Des émissions de méthane revues à la hausse dans deux rapports. L’actualité. April 26, 2017.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. CityNews. April 26, 2017.
New report challenges use of fracked gas as ‘clean’ transition fuel. Conservation Council of New Brunswick. May 1, 2017.
New studies: Methane emissions from Canadian oil & gas industry are worse than reported. Environmental Defence Fund Energy Exchange Blog. April 27, 2017.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. CTV News. April 26, 2017.
Oil and gas methane emissions higher than thought: report. PLANT. April 27, 2017.
New study finds much higher methane release from oil and gas fracking. Radio Canada International. April 27, 2017.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. Yahoo Finance. April 27, 2017.
Canada’s Methane Leakage Massively Under-reported, Studies Find. TheTyee.ca. April 27, 2017.
Study shows methane released by oil and gas operations in BC higher than reported. Energeticcity.ca. April 26, 2017.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. LocalExpress. April 27, 2017.
Come on Canada. Carbon Pulse (subscription). April 27, 2017.
St. Francis Xavier University licenses mobile gas leak detection technology. June Warren Nickels Energy. February 14, 2017.
Methane detection? There’s an app for that: Mobile sensor arrives just in time for new federal oil-and-gas-sector methane regulations. Business in Vancouver. March 21, 2017.
StFX professor, students searching for gas leaks. Casket Newspaper Antigonish. September 18, 2015.
CBC Radio (Main Street), CTV Television (Breakfast Television with Heidi Petracek) – Gas detection campaigns launching – September 2015.