Methane emissions in Alberta, Saskatchewan nearly four times higher than reported: research

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New research utilizing superior know-how reveals that heavy oil vegetation in Alberta and Saskatchewan launch nearly four times the quantity of a potent greenhouse fuel they report back to the federal government.

The research, printed in the journal Environmental Science & Know-how, results in new methods of measuring methane emissions that problem present industrial apply, stated lead creator Matthew Johnson, an engineering professor at Carleton College in Ottawa.

“Many of these (reports) are based on speculation,” Johnson stated. “Obviously they’re not very accurate.”

Methane is a fuel launched as a by-product of oil exploration and is usually categorized as a greenhouse fuel 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. Business and authorities are attempting to scale back these emissions by three-quarters, but it surely’s laborious to measure by how a lot.

“These are tough measurements,” Johnson stated.

The business sometimes depends on an estimate of how a lot methane involves the floor per barrel of oil, after which multiplies that measurement by the quantity of oil produced. Lately, a number of research utilizing direct measurements from high-flying plane have raised doubts about this methodology.

Johnson stated the quantity of methane related to oil is very variable, making calculations based mostly on that ratio unreliable.

Johnson and his colleagues used the newest airborne know-how in addition to ground-based sensors, often known as CHOPS know-how, to measure methane emissions from 962 heavy oil vegetation in Alberta and Saskatchewan, which observe the oil to the floor. Makes use of sand to push.

They discovered that these websites emitted 3.9 times the quantity of methane reported in state inventories. That is over 10,000 kgs per hour as in comparison with business reviews of round 2,700 kgs per hour.

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“That methane alone would be a significant contributor to Saskatchewan’s entire inventory,” Johnson stated.

Johnson stated figuring out how a lot methane the business is releasing into the ambiance is necessary for a number of causes.

First, business and the federal authorities have agreed to scale back these emissions by 75 % by 2030. Rules are anticipated later this yr to realize this objective and measuring an correct place to begin might be necessary.

Second, Johnson stated it will likely be necessary for business to have dependable evaluation of emissions nicely into the long run.

Methane emissions are usually not topic to the identical taxes as carbon dioxide releases, however that is altering. America is discussing pricing methane launched as a part of its Inflation Discount Act.

Johnson stated good data might be key to figuring out which sources will stay viable as such pricing rules unfold.

“If you imagine a price for methane … many of these wells will be uneconomical.”

Nonetheless, Johnson’s calculations present that the price of decreasing that methane is so small that the payback interval for not paying the methane value may very well be as little as two years. For those who embody the worth of the oil produced, the payback interval drops to 9 months for a lot of wells.

Johnson stated burning the methane would additionally assist.

“Installing basic burn mitigation technology won’t be a deal-breaker for the well, and you can get significant methane reduction.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first printed on February 21, 2023.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

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