VANCOUVER — Groundbreaking new research estimates fugitive methane emissions from B.C. oil and natural gas operations — the majority of which use hydraulic fracturing (fracking) — are at least 2.5 times higher than reported by the B.C. government and may be much higher.
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The study, conducted by the David Suzuki Foundation in partnership with St. Francis Xavier University, is the first on-the-ground, comprehensive research on methane emissions in Canada. It highlights the urgent need for the federal government to get methane emissions under control and not delay action as it recently proposed.
"Our peer-reviewed research shows the true magnitude of Canada's methane pollution problem is much bigger than previously estimated 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 the federal government to take a responsible approach by quickly enacting strong regulations and ensuring industry follows them.
"The federal government has the power to do what's right. It should re-commit to enact strong regulations within months, not years," Bruce said. "The science is clear: Cutting methane pollution is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to address climate change. The technology exists to eliminate industry-released methane."
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.
This 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 B.C.'s Montney formation. The results are available and undergoing final review in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions.
The research reveals that B.C.'s Montney region alone leaks more than 111,800 tonnes of methane into the air every year. 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.
Today, Environmental Defence also released a new report showing methane emissions from Alberta's oil and gas industry are significantly higher than previously reported, and pointing to the need for strong federal regulations now to reduce and eliminate these emissions.
"Applied at a national scale, these findings show that fracked gas — rather than serving as a 'clean' transition fuel — actually makes it harder for Canada to meet its climate change commitments," Bruce said. "Although our research shows that methane pollution is a big part of the problem, if action is taken now it can also be a big part of the solution."
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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