February 1, 2018 2:11 am

In B.C., 85% of active gas wells blow air-polluting methane into the sky every day: study

A new report confirms that B.C.'s oil and gas industry is vastly under-reporting leaks of methane gas into the atmosphere. Paul Johnson reports.


Methane — it’s a gas that, over the course of two decades, is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the David Suzuki Foundation.

And it’s also being blown into the atmosphere by over 85 per cent of B.C.’s active gas wells, said a report released by the foundation recently.

Coverage of methane on Globalnews.ca:

The report, titled “Fugitives in Our Midst,” marks the end of a research project that saw a team of investigators from the foundation go into the oil and gas patch around Fort St. John B.C. and look at how companies were managing methane emissions.

They found that over 85 per cent of all gas wells that were still operating were venting what they called fugitive emissions “directly to the environment daily.”

Investigators also found that 35 per cent of all inactive or abandoned gas wells were showing measurable or even significant methane leakage.

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READ MORE: Scientists discover high volume of methane emissions at B.C. oil and gas facilities

“These methane emissions are being hugely underreported,” said author John Werring, senior science and policy advisor with the David Suzuki Foundation.

The research found that the oil and gas sector is blowing 2.5 times more methane than has been recognized by both industry and governments.

But the industry has challenged Werring’s findings.

“I think some of the methodology definitely, legitimately detects methane plumes,” said Terry Abel, executive vice-president with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP).

“But then they used a math process and a number of details to try to bring that back to an actual estimate, and we really don’t believe that’s a valid approach to take.”

Werring said industry and governments need to “start taking steps to act immediately” to stop methane from leaking into the atmosphere the way it is now.

He has the interest of B.C.’s provincial government, which wants to take a closer look at the research.

“We’re certainly very interested in reviewing it,” said Environment Minister George Heyman.

READ MORE: Alberta methane releases underestimated: ‘if we thought it was bad, it’s worse’

One of the foundation’s recommendations? Apply a carbon tax to the oil and gas industry’s “fugitive” methane emissions.

“Every citizen in the Province of British Columbia currently pays a carbon tax,” Werring said.

“We’re saying that why shouldn’t the largest emitters of greenhouse gases do likewise?”

  • Video report by Paul Johnson

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