Canada, a World Leader in Climate Rules
Canada – A Leader in Global Climate Rules
A study published in Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Journal says Canada is a world leader in climate rules. The study done by a University of Calgary Associate Professor and Chair of Canada Research in Energy Technology, Joule Bergerson and her colleagues at Stanford University, analyzed how much carbon was contained in oil from nearly 9,000 oilfields in 90 countries, representing about 98 % of global production. Using data from satellites, industry, government and previous research, they also estimated how much methane and other greenhouse gases were released along with the oil.
The calculation showed that even though Canadian oil was the fourth most carbon-intensive, the industry as a whole is one of the most regulated industries in the world.
Not all oil weighs equally on the scales of climate change.
“Everybody talks about heavy crude oil, oil sands and unconventional resources, but nothing drives up carbon intensity like the practice of routinely burning, or flaring, natural gas.” said study author Mohammad Masnadi, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences.
The study showed that about half of the highest-carbon oil comes from fields with high rates of flaring and venting. Gas flaring is a combustion device to burn associated, unwanted or excess gases and liquids released during normal or unplanned over-pressuring operation in many industrial processes, such as oil-gas extraction, refineries, chemical plants, coal industry and landfills.
Globally, gas flaring has increased steadily from 2010. In 2018, four countries were responsible for almost 50 percent of all flared gas: Russia for 15 %, Iraq 12%, Iran 12 %, and the United State 10%. The top 10 flaring countries—a list that also includes Algeria, Angola, Libya, Mexico, Nigeria, and Venezuela—were responsible for nearly 75% of global flaring. Gas flaring emits more than 350 million tons of carbon dioxide in a year, according to the World Bank. That’s equivalent to the carbon emissions of 90 coal-fired power plants, emissions of almost 75 million cars or 25% of the annual gas consumption in the United States.
Unlike the other countries, U.S. flaring dramatically increased in 2018, spiking by almost 50% over the prior year, the largest absolute gains of any country. The vast amount of flaring emissions are the result of the shale oil boom fueled by the use of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to unlock fossil fuels from shale rock. Because shale wells tend to dry up more quickly than conventional oil fields, producers of shale oil basins in Texas, New Mexico, and North Dakota must drill constantly to keep their oil production steady, while venting or flaring off unwanted gas. In 2018 Permian flaring rose about 85% in one year. The volume flared in Texas by the end of year was greater than the annual residential gas demand in states like Arizona and South Carolina.
Flaring and venting is legal under US state laws. Typically, venting or flaring occur because there aren’t pipelines close enough to a well to capture and transport the gas, or because gas prices are so low that it’s cheaper to discard the gas than to try to sell it. Companies often treat natural gas as a byproduct when drilling for oil, which is far more lucrative.
Gas flaring is an economic waste, a waste of one of the world’s most useful and flexible energy sources.
“Really, the challenge with flaring is there needs to be a policy or a regulatory apparatus to say, ‘Burning gas with no purpose isn’t allowed; put it back in the ground or find something useful to do with it,’” Adam Brandt said. Assistant Professor of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford University
Those increases could be stopped if everyone took a more Canadian approach, said researcher Joule Bergerson. In the United States flaring has nearly quadrupled, and by contrast natural gas flaring in Alberta alone was reduced by 44% from 2000 to 2018.
In Canada the natural gas industry is highly regulated. The regulations minimize impacts on the land by avoiding sensitive habitat, using narrow seismic lines, low-impact pipeline methods, and other measures. While each province has its own regulations, all jurisdictions have laws to manage environmental impacts, to protect fresh water aquifers, and to ensure safe and responsible development.
The Canadian gas industry abides by all regulations governing hydraulic fracturing operations, and follows voluntary guiding principles and operating practices that address fracturing fluid additives disclosure, risk assessment and management, baseline groundwater testing, wellbore construction and quality assurance, water management, fluid management, and anomalous induced seismicity
In Alberta, the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) regulates flaring, venting and incinerating at oil and natural gas operations with Directive 60. The AER directives ensure that public safety concerns and environmental impacts are addressed before beginning to flare, incinerate, or vent.
Duncan Kenyon of the energy think tank Pembina Institute agreed flaring in Canada’s oilpatch is well-regulated. “If we were to take Canadian regulations and apply them globally we’d be way better off,”
It is suggested that global emissions from oil production could be cut by almost a quarter if oil-producing countries adopted regulations that limit the amount of gas flared or vented into the air similar to Canada – a leader in world climate rules.
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