Poorly regulated extraction operations, the majority fracking gas for LNG, make B.C.'s oil and gas industry the largest source of climate pollution in the province.
VANCOUVER — Methane pollution from the oil and gas industry in British Columbia is now at least 2.5 times higher than stated by the B.C. government, and may be much higher, according to research conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with St. Francis Xavier University.
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Over a 20-year period, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a climate pollutant. Leading scientists estimate that methane is responsible for 25 per cent of already observed changes to Earth's climate — why it's identified as a top climate priority globally.
"The finding of our peer-reviewed research is groundbreaking. It shows the true magnitude of B.C.'s methane pollution problem is much bigger than previously reported by industry and government," Ian Bruce, Foundation director of science and policy said. "Now that we know the extent of the problem, the David Suzuki Foundation is calling on B.C.'s next government to make it a priority to get this pollution problem under control and ensure industry is responsible for being part of the solution."
"Our research shows fossil fuel extraction in B.C.'s Montney region alone is intentionally releasing approximately 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air annually," John Werring, Foundation senior science and policy advisor and co-author of the study said. "This is the climate pollution equivalent of burning more than 4.5 million tonnes of coal, or putting more than two million cars on the road. It challenges claims that B.C. LNG is a 'clean' or useful 'transition' fuel."
The Montney region represents more than half (55 per cent) of total gas production in B.C. Approximately half of all well and processing sites in the region intentionally release methane.
Spanning 2015 and 2016, the research is the first ground-based measurement of methane emissions ever conducted in Canada. Scientists travelled more than 8,000 kilometres using vehicle-mounted gas-detection instruments (a sniffer truck), covering more than 1,600 well pads and facilities in the Montney formation. The results are available and undergoing final review in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions.
In 2016, David Suzuki Foundation researchers went back into the field to obtain direct well site and facility measurements, using infrared video cameras and leak-detection equipment. These results corroborate the findings of the vehicle-based surveys, while also identifying abandoned leaking wells that have not been capped and properly reclaimed.
"The good news is cutting methane pollution from the oil and gas sector is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to address climate change," Werring said. "The next B.C. government must establish accountability and proper oversight, so oil and fracked gas activities can eliminate methane pollution by 2030. This should include the use of existing full methane capture technologies, mandatory pollution detection and repair regulations, and the application of the B.C. carbon tax to methane pollution."
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A media backgrounder summarizing research results and policy recommendations is available here: DSF_fracking_media_backgrounder.pdf
The academic study, Mobile measurement of methane emissions from natural gas developments in Northeastern British Columbia, Canada, is available here:
Infrared video clips of methane pollution, and photos of abandoned and leaking wells in British Columbia's Montney region, are available from the David Suzuki Foundation.
For more information, please contact:
Climate Change & Clean Energy Communications Specialist
David Suzuki Foundation