Pass­ing Wind

New en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies are clos­ing the valve on meth­ane emis­sions

Alberta Oil - - OBSERVER -


in­fra­struc­ture with cli­mate change—oil wells are seen as heav­ily pol­lut­ing, for ex­am­ple, al­though wind­mills get a pass as clean and green. Pas­tures of graz­ing cat­tle don’t evoke the same sen­ti­ment, de­spite the fact that cat­tle are eas­ily the world’s largest emit­ters of meth­ane, a ma­jor cause of global warm­ing.

A re­port by the Global Meth­ane Ini­tia­tive found that 29 per­cent of meth­ane emis­sions come from so-called “en­teric fer­men­ta­tion”— es­sen­tially the di­ges­tion of food, which leads to belch­ing and pass­ing of wind—while oil and gas ac­counts for 20 per­cent. Most of that 29 per­cent comes from live­stock, which ex­pel huge amounts of the gas. As a green­house gas, meth­ane is up to 25 times more po­tent than CO2, but has a much shorter at­mo­spheric life­span (meth­ane lingers in the at­mos­phere for about 10 years, while CO2 can last well over 100).

How­ever, be­cause CO2 still makes up a much larger por­tion of to­tal Earth-warm­ing emis­sions, the global push to curb en­vi­ron­men­tal warm­ing of­ten fo­cuses on the re­duc­tion of CO2. But there has been a tighter fo­cus on meth­ane emis­sions fol­low­ing the re­lease of new cli­mate reg­u­la­tions from the Al­berta gov­ern­ment, which out­lines plans to re­duce meth­ane emis­sions in the oil and gas sec­tor 45 per­cent by 2025. The reg­u­la­tions will stiffen rules around the con­struc­tion of new fa­cil­i­ties, as well as tar­get ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture like leaky wells or pumps. In March 2016, Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau also an­nounced loose plans to re­duce meth­ane emis­sions across Canada by up to 45 per­cent as part of a cross-bor­der strat­egy with the U.S. to bat­tle cli­mate change.

Meth­ane emis­sions from leaky oil and gas wells are not al­ways mea­sured, and are there­fore dif­fi­cult to ef­fi­ciently re­duce. But cap­tur­ing a cow fart might prove to be even more dif­fi­cult.

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