British Columbia equivalency with federal methane regulations: emissions reduction estimation

As part of the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, the Government of Canada reaffirmed its commitment to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector by 40 to 45 percent from 2012 levels by 2025. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that is at least 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide and methane emissions make up about 15 percent of Canada’s total GHG emissions. The oil and gas sector is the largest contributor to methane emissions in Canada.

In April 2018, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) published the federal methane regulations to deliver on this commitment. The Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement (RIAS) assessed the impacts of the regulations, including methane (in CO2e) emissions reduction estimates.Footnote 1 This analysis used emissions projections as reported in Canada’s 2016 Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reference Case. ECCC has since updated its emissions reduction estimates to reflect departmental projections, as reported in Canada’s 3rd Biennial Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).Footnote 2 A summary of the emissions estimation methodology and the resulting emission reduction estimates follows below.

Emissions estimation methodology

The analysis estimated emission reductions by first developing detailed engineering emissions estimates for the baseline and regulatory scenarios, and then scaling these to the Department’s overall emission estimates for the oil and gas sector in order to ensure that the estimates are consistent.

To calculate venting and fugitive gas reductions, baseline and regulatory emission factors for the various standards and product types were multiplied by the total number of devices or facilities for the respective standard. This procedure calculates the total amount of gas that will be emitted with and without the Regulations. The difference between the emissions in the baseline scenario and the emissions in the regulatory scenario were used to estimate the incremental reductions.

The sources for the emission factors differ for each standard

  • For facility production venting requirements, provincial data on facility venting and flaring volumes were used to estimate the baseline emissions, and compared to the required reductions as per the regulations
  • For LDAR, the emission factors derived from the Clearstone Engineering emission factor studyFootnote 3, and modified using a method described in the EPA Protocol for Equipment Leak Emission EstimatesFootnote 4 
  • For pneumatic devices, emission factors were developed from an engineering assessment of pneumatic devices undertaken in British Columbia in 2013;Footnote 5 and
  • For compressors, the emission factors for the reciprocating compressors are estimated using a dataset from Target Emission Services. For centrifugal compressors, the emission factors are obtained from an engineering assessment of compressors undertaken in 2014 by the U.S. EPA.Footnote 6

To determine emissions of the various pollutants contained in emitted gases, the composition of gas streams is determined using estimates of gas composition from the Clearstone Engineering report,Footnote 7 with the exception of gas from facility production venting, as these composition ratios were obtained from a combination of reports from provinces.Footnote 8 To obtain the amounts of CO2, CH4 or VOCs reduced, the natural gas reductions are multiplied by the composition ratios for each standard which are provided in Table 1.

Table 1: Composition of gas by standard and product type
Standard Product Type CO2 CH4 VOCs
Venting Light oil 10% 53% 22%
All others Light oil 1% 84% 4%
All others Non-associated gas 2% 88% 5%
All others Tight gas >1% 94% 2%
All others Shale gas >1% 94% 2%
All others Gas processing 2% 88% 5%

The engineering emission estimates were then scaled to align with the departmental baseline emissions forecasts. The departmental baseline emission projections for the oil and gas sector are determined using the production forecast of oil and gas from the NEB, in combination with the national inventory report. These departmental projections are developed in the Energy, Emissions and Economy Model for Canada (E3MC), one of the Department’s models for estimating methane (in CO2e) emission trends and regulatory impacts in Canada.

The engineering estimates were used to derive a baseline for all fugitive and venting emissions, which was calculated for five sectors; natural gas production, natural gas processing, and light oil mining. These baseline estimates were then compared to the departmental baseline emissions forecast for sectors to obtain a set of ratios, or scaling factors, as follows:

Scaling Factorsector,province equals E3MC Baseline Emissionssector,province  divide by Engineering Baseline Emissionssector,province
Long description for equation

The scaling factor is specific to sector type and province. To calculate this factor, the baseline emissions developed in the Energy, Emissions and Economy Model for Canada (E3MC) for a specific sector and province must be divided by engineering baseline emissions for the same sector and province.

These scaling factors were then applied to the engineering reduction estimates for each pollutant and for estimates of conserved gas to derive final incremental estimates for the regulations.

Emission reductions estimates

For the purposes of determining equivalent outcomes between the BC and federal regulations, the Department has estimated the methane (in CO2e) reductions achieved by the BC regulations using the same methodology. The updated baseline emissions estimates and updated reduction estimates for the province of British Columbia, in addition to reductions estimates under the BC regulations are shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Oil and gas sector methane emissions and reductions in British Columbia
Mt CO2e 2012 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025 2026 2027 2028 2029 2030
Baseline CH4 emissions (oil and gas sources)
(Does not include emissions from federal lands)
1.8 2.1 2.1 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.2 2.3 2.3 2.3 2.4
Regulatory methane (in CO2e) reductions under ECCC regulations - 0.3 0.4 0.4 0.9 0.9 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.0
Regulatory methane (in CO2e) reductions under BC regulations - 0.3 0.3 0.8 0.8 0.9 0.9 1.0 1.0 1.0 1.1 1.1

Based on these estimates, the BC regulations result in cumulative emission reductions of 3.1 megatonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent (Mt CO2e) from 2020-2024, which exceeds the federal regulations, as summarized in Table 3.

Table 3 – Comparison of cumulative methane (in CO2e) emission reductions by emissions source
[January 1, 2020 – January 1, 2025 reductions (Mt CO2e) reference case (2017)]
Emissions source Provincial regulation reductions Federal regulations reductions
Fugitives 1.23 1.21
Pneumatic devices venting 1.36 0.98
Compressor venting 0.37 0.54
General facility venting 0.13 0.05
Total 3.10 2.77
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