Upstream Oil and Gas Industry Overview

The upstream oil and gas industry includes exploration, production and basic processing of crude oil and natural gas. The earliest forms of this industry were as simple as people soaking up natural seeps of oil from the top of some water bodies with blankets that they would then wring out. More familiar are images of gushing oil from latticed oil towers (derricks), or beam pumps currently found scattered across western Canada.

Many technical and industrial improvements have occurred since the early period of this industry, driven by the increasing importance of crude oil and gas in local and global economies. Methods of exploration, drilling, extraction, processing and refinement have all changed significantly and care is taken to minimize the environmental footprint of activities.

The Canadian Context

Crude oil and natural gas can be found in many regions across Canada. In 2006, the majority of Canadian oil and gas production occurred in Alberta, accounting for 69% and 76% of total Canadian production of oil and gas respectivelyFootnote 1. Other producing provinces are British Columbia and Saskatchewan and offshore production in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. Small amounts of crude oil and gas are produced in the North West Territories, Yukon, Manitoba and Ontario.

Overall, Canada is a net exporter of crude oil and natural gas.

Environmental Impact on Air Quality

There are many environmental impacts associated with activities from the upstream petroleum industry. The emissions released by the industry to the air from flaring, for example, are of concern with respect to regional air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. Air pollution emissions from the industry include toxics, such as benzene and particulates, smog precursors, acid emissions and greenhouse gases, such as methane and carbon dioxide. The 2006 Environment Canada published air pollutant emissions for the UOGsector are reported to contribute 17% of the sulphur oxide (SOx), 21% of the nitrogen oxide (NOx) and 28% of the volatile organic compounds (VOC) in Canada.


Footnote 1

StatsCan 2007 Energy Statistics Handbook, Table 4.2-1 and 6.3

Return to footnote 1 referrer