CAPP’s Strategy to reduce methane emissions will fall short, environmentalists say

Canada’s oil and gas producers are committing to decrease methane emissions by 45 percent by 2025 to fight climate change, but critics wonder whether their strategy would attain the stated goal.

Faced with looming government actions, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) said Monday that it’s a methane program which would price its member companies $700-million more than eight decades, and are more elastic than draft regulations which Ottawa has printed. Alberta is expected to release its draft rules this week.

“Our strategy looks at how we could be more efficient and get the exact same outcome,” CAPP president Tim McMillan said in an interview from Edmonton. “It is not cost-free by any measure,” he said, but the national price tag “will be substantially greater than the {}700-million we have put forward.”

But, environmentalists who have consulted with Ottawa and Alberta in their plans assert CAPP’s strategy would fall short of what’s required to fulfill the 45-per-cent reduction goal, especially given the absence of information on how much methane is now being emitted from industry operations.

Methane — the fundamental constituent of natural gas — has a strong but short-lived heat-trapping land when discharged into the atmosphere. Major oil companies — such as Exxon Mobil Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Saudi Aramco — have vowed to dramatically reduce emissions which occur either intentionally as businesses vent or flare gas when they create petroleum, or unintentionally when the gas flows from gear.

In March, 2016, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a deal with then-president Barack Obama by which both Canada and the United States would decrease methane emissions from oil and gas sector by 40 per cent to 45 percent under 2012 levels by 2025. Under President Donald Trump, the Environmental Protection Agency has halted efforts to enact such regulations, though some petroleum- and gas-producing nations are behaving.

The Alberta and British Columbia governments are seeking to regulate their own businesses, and their principles could supersede national ones if the provincial strategy accomplishes the exact environmental benefits.

Mr. Trudeau and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley are already under fire from conservative opposition leaders for climate policies that impose costs on the industry since the Trump government moves to deregulate.

CAPP’s announcement on Monday will give the opposition more ammunition if authorities proceed with regulations seen by business as overly onerous.

Under Ottawa’s draft methane rules, employers would have to visually inspect their far-flung equipment for leaks on a regular basis, and would be expected to measure emissions in each operation and reduce them by at least 40 percent below 2012 levels.

CAPP wants companies to have the ability to use a “risk-based approach” where the manufacturers would evaluate where they’re most vulnerable to significant leaks and address those issues.

Additionally, it wants companies to be held to a general objective of methane-emission discounts, and giving them flexibility to pursue the most cost-effective approaches.

Mr. McMillan said Canada is already a leader in methane management, with provincial regulations which restrict companies’ ability to vent or flare the gas.

But environmental advocates assert CAPP’s approach would make it difficult to validate the degree of current emissions, and quantify the actual reductions.

Right now, the state and sector are dramatically underestimating methane emissions from business operations, according to a recent study by Carleton University scientist Matt Johnson, published in Environmental Science amp; Technology journal.

“We’re nowhere near with the coverage and measurement tools required to create [CAPP’s plan] a plausible alternative,” said Duncan Kenyon of the Calgary-based Pembina Institute. “The inherent problem with methane is that it likes to flow, and will flow wherever it can find a weakness{}”

He noted that the Alberta government has indicated it would give the industry some flexibility, insisting on tougher measurement attempts in the short term, using a controlled requirement to decrease emissions after 2020 with the objective of a 45-per-cent decrease by 2025.

Alberta Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd said the state will launch its regulatory strategy “in the coming days{}”

The business is “up to the challenge of cutting methane pollution,” she said in a statement. “Their early actions and commitment to working with us to get this right means we’re well on our way into an Alberta-made plan which puts the tasks of hard-working Albertans and a solid economy front and center.”

The International Energy Agency recently said global methane emissions could be lowered by up to 75 percent with current technology, which improvements are essential if natural gas will play a long-term role in greenhouse gas emission reduction.

CAPP’s claim that its more flexible approach would protect industry jobs has to be viewed in light of their longer-term pressure on the sector to deal with climate change, said Drew Nelson, global climate-change manager with Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund.

“The biggest players in the market are considering this as a matter of the survival,” he said.

“Unless business tackles methane head on, they will lose credibility as providers of an energy supply for the future{}”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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