Canada's methane regulations for the upstream oil and gas sector
Natural gas is composed almost entirely of methane (CH4), a colourless, odourless and flammable gas. Methane is considered toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA). As a greenhouse gas (GHG), it has a global warming potential more than 70 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 20-year period.
When oil and gas are extracted and processed, natural gas can leak accidentally or be released intentionally into the environment. These emissions contribute significantly to global warming and climate change and also cause smog and other negative impacts on air quality.
Oil and gas facilities are the largest industrial emitters of methane in Canada. They release 44% of total methane emissions. Upstream activities such as exploration, drilling, production and field processing contribute close to 90% of methane emissions and account for 26% of Canada’s total GHG emissions.
There are many cost-effective opportunities such as gas capture, clean combustion and fixing leaks that can help to reduce this loss and promote sound industry practices.
Figure 1. Total methane emissions in Canada in 2014 by industry sector
Description of Figure 1
Sector: Oil and gas, 44%; Agriculture 28%; Waste 23%; Other energy sources 4%; Transportation 1%; Electricity 0%; Industrial processes and product use 0%.
The federal regulations that apply to methane in the upstream oil and gas sector aim to control methane emissions and also reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air. VOCs are found with methane and are known to have adverse health effects and contribute to smog formation.
These regulations apply generally to facilities that handle significant volumes of gas. They cover key fugitive and venting emission sources in the upstream oil and gas sector described below.
|General facility production venting||
Venting from pneumatic devices1
|Venting from compressors2||
|Venting from well completions involving hydraulic fracturing3||
Note: See the legal text of the regulations for full details on the requirements.
1 Pneumatic devices are automated instruments for maintaining a process condition including liquid level, pressure difference and temperature.
2 Compressors are mechanical devices that increase the pressure of natural gas to allow it to be transported e.g. through a pipeline.
3 Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting fluids into a well under pressure to create fractures from which hydrocarbons can migrate toward the well.
Energy and Transportation Directorate
Environment and Climate Change Canada
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Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3
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