Additional information on the proposed methane regulations

Background

Natural gas is a valuable resource used by Canadians to heat their homes and power factories. It is composed almost entirely of methane, a colourless, odourless and flammable gas. Methane is considered toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA) because it is a greenhouse gas (GHG) with a global warming potential 25 times greater than carbon dioxide (CO2) over a 100-year period.

Some natural gas extracted by the oil and gas industry is lost from leaks or from intentional releases for operational reasons. This loss is not only a waste of a valuable economic resource, but also contributes significantly to global warming and climate change, and to smog formation and other negative air quality impacts. Oil and gas facilities are Canada’s largest industrial emitters of methane, releasing 44% of Canada’s total methane emissions (figure 1). Oil and gas operations account for 26% of Canada’s total GHG emissions.

Figure 1. Total methane emissions in Canada in 2014 by industry sector

Figure 1. Total methane emissions in Canada in 2014 by industry sector.  (See long description below)
Description of Figure 1

Sector: Oil and Gas, 44%; Agriculture 26%; Other Industries 22%; Electricity 6%; Transportation 2%; Waste and Others 0%; and Commercial and Residential 0%.

Methane releases from the upstream oil and gas sector come from normal operation of process equipment, unintentionally from leaks (e.g. in piping), or intentionally (e.g. from vents on tanks) (figure 2).

There are many cost-effective opportunities for the upstream oil and gas sector to avoid this loss of valuable natural gas. These options include gas capture, clean combustion and emission surveys to find leaks so they can be repaired.

Addressing methane emissions is the lowest-cost greenhouse gas emissions reduction opportunity in the oil and gas sector due to the value of gas that will be conserved by the proposed measures, and the fact that many of the measures represent sound operational practices, some of which industry already follows to varying degrees.

Figure 2. Natural gas venting

Figure 2. Natural gas venting  (See long description below)

Description of Figure 2

Left: Intentional venting of natural gas (mostly methane) from a storage tank visible with an infrared emission detection camera.
Middle: emissions are not visible without an infrared camera.
Right: natural gas being vented from a well - visible with an infrared camera.

Proposed regulations

In order to reduce the amount of methane released into the air from Canada’s upstream oil and gas sector, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is proposing regulations that would require methane emission control measures to be implemented. Addressing methane emissions has a co-benefit of also reducing the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released into the air, as VOCs are also found with methane in the natural gas. VOCs are known to have adverse health effects and contribute to smog formation. The proposed methane regulations include flexibilities to allow for industry to meet the requirements to reduce methane and VOC emissions.

The proposed regulations have been designed so that, in general, only facilities handling significant volumes of gas need to comply with the requirements. The proposed methane regulations cover five key methane emission sources in the upstream oil and gas sector. Detailed information regarding these requirements can be seen in Table 1 below.

Table 1. Proposed requirements at upstream oil and gas facilities by key methane emission sources under ECCC’s proposed methane regulations
Key Methane Emission SourceProposed RequirementCoverageProposed FlexibilityProposed Date of Implementation
Fugitive Equipment Leaks
  • Implementation of a Leak Detection and Repair (LDAR) program to detect and repair gas leaks
  • Inspections three times per year
  • Corrective action within 30 days for onshore facilities and within 365 days for offshore facilities
Larger facilities
  • Scheduling of shut-down so that the emissions from the repair do not exceed the emissions from the leak
  • Exclusion of single well-heads.
January 1, 2020
Facility Production Venting
  • Limit of 250 m3 per month (3,000 m3 per year)
  • Conservation or flaring / clean incineration of natural gas
Larger facilitiesPermission to vent in case of an emergencyJanuary 1, 2023

Pneumatic Devices1

 

 

  • Non-emitting pneumatic controllers for larger facilities; low emitting pneumatic controllers for smaller facilities
  • Non-emitting pneumatic pumps for larger pump rates
  • Switch to non- or low-emitting pneumatic controllers
  • Switch to non-emitting pneumatic pumps
Larger facilities and larger pumping rates
  • Pneumatic controllers: exemptions possible for operational needs
  • Pumps: exemption permits possible if no feasible non-emitting technology
  • Both: exemption where emissions are conserved or destroyed
January 1, 2023
Compressors2
  • Annual measurements of compressor vents
  • Corrective action within 30 or 90 days based on compressor type
All existing compressors at oil and gas facilities must meet emissions limit and all new compressors must conserve emissions.No measurement where emissions are conserved or destroyedJanuary 1, 2020
Well completions by hydraulic fracturing3
  • No venting
  • Conservation or flaring / clean incineration of natural gas
Fractured wells with high gas-to-oil rationsExemption for well completions in Alberta and British ColumbiaJanuary 1, 2020

1 Pneumatic devices are automated instruments for maintaining a process condition, including liquid level, pressure difference and temperature.

2 Compressors are mechanical device that increases 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, or fluids mixed with solids, under pressure into a well in order to create fractures from which hydrocarbons can migrate toward the well.

How to provide comments

Please provide your comments on the proposed methane regulations in writing to ec.methane-methane.ec@canada.ca by July 26, 2017.

Contact Information

Helen Ryan
Director General
Energy and Transportation Directorate
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 Saint-Joseph Boulevard
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3
Email address: ec.methane-methane.ec@canada.ca

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