A new study published in Environmental Science and Technology says that methane emissions in the heavy oil zone near Lloydminster are more than three times higher than the best available estimates.
However, Lloydminster isn’t the only area with higher than expected methane emissions according to the study completed by Carleton University’s Matthew Johnson. The study examined airborne methane levels in Lloydminster and Red Deer’s oil and gas production regions.
In the natural gas and light oil production region near Red Deer, the study found that only 6% of emissions were being captured by provincial reporting requirements for methane venting and flaring. Meaning over 90% was going unreported/unmeasured. Right now, industry is only required to report how much methane is released during flaring and venting, leaving “fugitive emissions” to be estimated.
The study used several aerial flyovers of oil and gas fields to measure released methane last fall. Researchers also tracked amounts of ethane so they could distinguish between industrial and agricultural methane emissions, since ethane is not released by cattle. According to the study, industry and government could be underestimating methane emissions across the province by up to 50%.
Alberta has committed to reducing methane emissions to up to 45% below levels in 2012, however this study suggests the province would have to double its planned cuts to meet that target. The study also says there is a need for policies to address reporting gaps as the represent significant methane reduction opportunities. Along with this, the study says more research is needed in the western provinces.
Methane is about 30 times more powerful than Carbon Dioxide. Alberta is Canada’s largest producer of fossil fuel resources.