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OGC working on new methane emissions program in wake of recommendations from Suzuki Foundation report

A still photo from a video taken with a FLIR infrared camera of a vent pipe on a Tourmaline well venting natural gas in 2016. The flow of gas was measured to be approximately 0.5 m3/hr. Photo by David Suzuki Foundation.
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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The BC Oil and Gas Commission says it is developing new ways of monitoring methane emissions and implementing a fugitive emissions management program after a report from the David Suzuki Foundation confirmed the findings of a study released last Spring.

Members of the Foundation collaborated with a team from St. Francis Xavier University in the summer of 2015 to conduct the observations on methane emissions in the Montney Formation with a sniffer truck. The results of that study found that methane emissions in Northeast B.C. were 2.5 times higher than previously estimated by the provincial government.

On Wednesday, the Suzuki Foundation released a second report on fugitive methane emissions from oil and gas wells in Northeast B.C. done the following year using direct measurements at well sites. This time, the team used a Landtec GEM2000 Plus landfill gas monitor and a FLIR ThermaCAM GasFindIR HSX infrared camera. Researcher John Werring said that out of 178 well sites where the team made direct observations, 35 percent of inactive wells and 85 percent of active gas wells were releasing methane directly into the atmosphere, with an average flow of 27.1 cubic metres per day.

Cloud of heat and methane gas being emitted from Spectra Energy Compressor Station 16 on August 15, 2016. The main plume is probably heat but the residual plume wafting away from the stack is likely unburned gas. The distinct odour of natural gas was very strong at ground level. This is a still photo captured from a video taken with a FLIR camera. Photo by David Suzuki Foundation

Werring said that when the team gathered its second set of data in 2016, it attempted to the best of its ability to retrace the route taken the previous year using the sniffer truck in order to pinpoint particular wells that may be leaking gas. Roughly 30 percent of abandoned, suspended, oil-producing, and shut-in wells were found to be leaking methane, with the number rising to 44 percent of other wells and 57 percent of water injection wells. Werring stated that the findings corroborate those of last year’s study released by the St. Xavier team, which he accompanied during their observations in 2015.

The report makes a number of recommendations including: that all oil and gas companies be required to undertake leak detection activities; and that regulations be developed requiring industry to replace oil and gas-powered pumps and compressors designed to vent fuel gas with non-emitting devices.

BC OGC spokesperson Phil Rygg stated that the Commission has reviewed the Suzuki Foundation’s report, as it does all studies and reports conducted by third parties. Rygg said that the Commission already performs between 4,000 and 5,000 inspections per year on oil and gas infrastructure, which includes a technique to identify leaking infrastructure. “If unauthorized methane releases are identified, deficiencies are noted and industry is required to take corrective action,” he said.

Rygg added that the OGC has already been working on several initiatives to address recommendations made by Suzuki Foundation report, while both the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources and the Climate Action Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change are developing methane emission regulations to meet the Federal methane emission reduction targets. He also said that a new direction on how to address the issue may be forthcoming from the provincial government.

The full report from the Foundation can be read here: https://davidsuzuki.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/investigating-fugitive-emissions-abandoned-suspended-active-oil-gas-wells-montney-basin-northeastern-british-columbia.pdf

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