Oil­patch says cut­ting meth­ane leaks will kill jobs

The Prince George Citizen - - SPORTS - Bob WE­BER

ED­MON­TON — Thou­sands of jobs in the oil patch are at risk if gov­ern­ments try to im­pose the wrong ap­proach to cut­ting back a highly po­tent green­house gas, says an in­dus­try lobby group.

“Let’s take the best op­por­tu­ni­ties as op­posed to be­ing very pre­scrip­tive,” Tim McMil­lan, head of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Petroleum Pro­duc­ers, said Mon­day.

The fed­eral and Al­berta gov­ern­ments, with in­dus­try sup­port, have an­nounced plans to re­duce emis­sions of meth­ane by up to 45 per cent by 2025.

Meth­ane is a green­house gas con­sid­ered about 30 times more po­tent than car­bon diox­ide. Re­duc­ing emis­sions by seal­ing off leaks and other re­leases dur­ing en­ergy ex­trac­tion is con­sid­ered to be one of the eas­i­est and most cost-ef­fec­tive ways to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions.

While the province is still con­sid­er­ing its ap­proach, Ot­tawa re­leased draft reg­u­la­tions in the spring.

En­vi­ron­ment Canada says its rules would cost about $3.3 bil­lion over 18 years, off­set by $1.6 bil­lion in re­cov­ered and saleable gas.

But in slides pre­pared for a meet­ing with En­vi­ron­ment Canada and re­leased to Green­peace un­der free­dom-of-in­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion, in­dus­try pegs the tab at $4.1 bil­lion over eight years.

En­ergy pro­duc­ers want to re­duce that dif­fer- ence through flex­i­bil­ity, said McMil­lan.

In­spec­tions of wells and other fa­cil­i­ties should be fo­cused on sites that are likely to yield the high­est re­duc­tions, he said.

“A blunt in­stru­ment would say that all sites, no mat­ter high risk, low risk, big, small, would need to get in­spected three times a year.”

But com­pa­nies should be al­lowed to fo­cus on “high-risk, high-con­se­quence” sites and in­spect oth­ers as lit­tle as once an­nu­ally, he said.

The slides sug­gest in­dus­try’s plan could achieve 70 per cent of the re­duc­tions at onethird the cost. It would, how­ever, cut about two fewer mega­tonnes of meth­ane.

In­dus­try also wants to be able to av­er­age out re­duc­tions over the en­tire in­dus­try. McMil­lan ar­gues that for some pro­cesses, such as ones used for heavy oil in Al­berta, meth­ane re­duc­tion is harder.

“The tech­nol­ogy doesn’t ex­ist to have the same re­duc­tion abil­ity as it does in other parts of the province. We can have a ge­o­graphic chal­lenge or op­por­tu­nity where we can maybe in­vest more heav­ily for the bigger prize.”

Re­cent re­search sug­gests heavy oil sites emit 50 per cent more meth­ane than what in­dus­try es­ti­mates. McMil­lan said that re­search isn’t con­clu­sive.

Keith Ste­wart, cli­mate cam­paigner with Green­peace, sug­gested in­dus­try is in­flat­ing the costs of the gov­ern­ment’s pro­posed ap­proach.

“The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment needs to re­ject the oil lobby’s request to set their own rules on when and how they in­spect their fa­cil­i­ties. We need clear, well-en­forced rules on meth­ane be­cause a so-called flex­i­ble ap­proach hasn’t worked.”

The petroleum pro­duc­ers say their ap­proach would cost the in­dus­try as lit­tle as $700 mil­lion over eight years.

In a re­lease, they say it would also lead to $710 mil­lion rein­vested in Al­berta and “pre­vent the cu­mu­la­tive loss of nearly 7,000 jobs.”

Both in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment may be un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the cost of meth­ane re­duc­tion. The same pa­per that con­cluded heavy oil sites were re­leas­ing more meth­ane that pre­vi­ously thought con­cluded Al­berta would have to cut al­most twice as much of the gas as it planned to meet the 45 per cent tar­get.

In­dus­try still be­lieves the goal is reach­able, said McMil­lan.

“We’ve been in­vest­ing in meth­ane re­duc­tion and see­ing real gains. I’m quite con­fi­dent we have a grasp on what the op­por­tu­ni­ties and the costs of those op­por­tu­ni­ties are.”

En­vi­ron­ment Canada says its rules would cost about $3.3 bil­lion over 18 years, off­set by $1.6 bil­lion in re­cov­ered and saleable gas.

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