Producers call for loosening of methane rules
Government’s proposed policy would be too costly for industry: lobby group
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers on Monday recommended a loose ned approach to regulating methane emissions from oil and gas sites, just as Alberta prepares to table its draft policies aimed at limiting emissions of the gas.
In a list of recommendations, CAPP called for a so-called “fleet average” approach to meet industry’s methane targets, which would essentially judge methane emissions levels across the industry rather than on a site-by-site basis.
Industry has long claimed that it should be allowed to cut the cheapest and simplest methane emissions first, and then move onto larger and more unwieldy sources of the pollutant in order to meet its targets in a cost-effective way.
“This is a core piece of what we’re asking for,” said Tim McMillan, the president and CEO of CAPP.
Methane is about 100-times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, according to scientists, although it does not linger nearly as long in the atmosphere.
It is often emitted through flaring or in leaks from pumps, valves and other infrastructure on oil and gas sites.
CAPP’s recommendations come as Canadian governments increasingly tighten regulations around methane emissions.
Alberta could release its draft methane regulations as early as Wednesday, several people said Monday. Government officials said the regulations would be tabled in the next few days.
The federal government released its own draft proposals in May of this year, and is currently in consultations with stakeholders over the policy.
McMillan warned against the kind of “blunt instrument” policy proposed under Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, which he argues would be too costly for industry amid a years-long slump in commodity prices.
“Ottawa’s draft proposals fall into the very prescriptive category of policymaking,” he said.
In March 2016 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former U.S. president Barack Obama agreed to jointly cut methane emissions from oil and gas by 40 to 45 per cent from 2012 levels by 2025.
Alberta, for its part, has set a targetto reduce methane emissions 45 per cent from 2014 levels by 2025. Under Ottawa’s policy, provinces will have to submit their own draft proposals for methane regulations before entering into discussions with the federal government over which proposals will ultimately be implemented. The federal environment ministry expects to finalize its policies in the spring of 2018.
The federal government’s draft proposals pushed back the startdate for methane regulations from 2018 back to 2020, another key recommendation by industry.
Environmental researchers say that judging collective emissions rather than site-by-site would only be useful with better monitoring of methane emissions in place. Currently, measurements of just how much methane is emitted by industry vary widely.
“It isn’t a bad solution when you have an allotted, real measurement of methane emissions,” said Duncan Kenyon, a researcher at the Pembina Institute based in Edmonton.
But he said that the lack of monitoring is especially problematic in complicated facilities with hundreds of valves and pumps, “when you’re dealing with potentially 100 emissions points on a site.”
Pembina and others have called for a more prescribed approach to methane regulations.
A less prescribed approach to emissions also gives room to focus only on smaller emissions sources, rather than infrastructure that could be emitting higher volumes of methane, particularly tank farms and flare stacks, where raw natural gas is burned off before being emitted into the atmosphere.
“Those are the sites where you really want to go and crack down,” said Keith Stewart with Greenpeace Canada in Toronto.
CAPP has been in discussions for months with the provincial regulator and Alberta government officials about crafting methane policy.
The lobby group also recommended on Monday an approach that incentivizes investment in cleaner technology while cutting emissions from leaks and flaring sooner.
The association said the methane regime it proposed would cost industry roughly $700 million over eight years, but would create “the most competitive approach” to meeting targets.