Field work – now complete
We have conducted extensive emissions monitoring surveys through upstream oil and gas developments in British Columbia (Montney region of Dawson Creek and Fort St. John), Alberta (Medicine Hat x2; Peace River x2; Lloydminster x3; Red Deer; Rocky Mountain House), Saskatchewan (Bakken; Weyburn-Midale), and New Brunswick (Stoney Creek x2). Maps to the right show driving routes on off-lease roads that we repeated 3-6 times, often over varying seasons. In each development we have repeatedly (2-6 times) sampled air downwind and within 500 m of 1000-3000 wells and facilities. We measure geolocated concentrations of several gases (methane, ethane, hydrogen sulphide, carbon dioxide, carbon isotopic composition of methane), wind speed and direction, temperature, and GPS location data in real-time at one second intervals while we survey.
Once back in the lab, we relate the gas plumes we measured on-road to upwind infrastructure sources using a geospatial database. Our datasets are robust due to high sample numbers, high degree of replication, the use of control routes as ‘blanks’, and the defined minimum detection limits (high sensitivity). To enhance certainty, we tag infrastructure as ‘emitting’ only if we have detected anomalies on over than half of the survey passes. Our analysis is broken down into two phases. Phase I is 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 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. We do not release 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 (present – 2019) 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.
- Alberta: This Phase II manuscript (currently in review) will compare methane emissions across three contrasting oil and gas developments in Alberta where air issues have been common in recent years. This study was supported by industry. A follow-up study conducted in fall 2017 was made possible through a NSERC CRD grant.
- Saskatchewan: This Phase II 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. The manuscript will be submitted fall 2018. This study was supported by a combination of industry, government, and a local non-governmental airshed organization.
- xCanada synthesis: This comprehensive Phase II paper (early 2019) will apply a more advanced volumetric modelling approach for an industry-wide Canada emissions 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, identify patterns, and to point at low-hanging fruit for emissions reduction.
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 early 2019. In addition to the above, we’ve also made measurements at seneral oil sands operations, Carbon Capture and Storage sites, legacy wells, and coal operations/shafts in eastern Canada.
With more than 150,000 kilometre already logged, the mobile Flux Lab keeps trucking. University Affairs. 4 October 2018.
FluxLab Marking 10 Years in the Southeast. Discovery Weyburn. 8 August 2018.
Heat Mapping Old Coal Mines to Test for Methane Emissions. Global News. 11 August 2017.
Research sheds light on dark corner of B.C.’s oil and gas industry. The Coast. May 3 2017.
New report challenges use of fracked gas as ‘clean’ transition fuel. Conservation Council of New Brunswick. May 1, 2017.
Scientists discover high volume of methane emissions at BC oil and gas facilities. Global News. April 25, 2017.
Methane pollution from BC’s oil, gas industry higher than provincial estimates. The Globe and Mail. April 25, 2017.
New reports say Canada’s oil, gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. Toronto Star. April 26, 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.
BC, Alberta methane pollution higher than disclosed, reports suggest. CBC. Apr 26, 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.
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. CTV News. April 26, 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.
New studies: Methane emissions from Canadian oil & gas industry are worse than reported. Environmental Defence Fund Energy Exchange Blog. April 27, 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.
Reports say oil and gas methane emissions higher than previously thought. LocalExpress. April 27, 2017.
Come on Canada. Carbon Pulse (subscription). April 27, 2017.
Methane emissions in Canada’s oil and gas sector. AM770 Radio. April 28, 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.
St. Francis Xavier University licenses mobile gas leak detection technology. June Warren Nickels Energy. February 14, 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.