Reducing methane emissions: A path to fighting climate change

methane emissions

Guest blog from CAPP

Canada’s oil and natural gas industry invests in innovative solutions that will reduce methane emissions, meet government targets and save money. Talk about a win-win.

When it comes to tackling the greenhouse gas challenge in Canada’s oil and natural gas sector, reducing methane emissions may not generate the media headlines the same as mega-project undertakings like hydrogen or carbon capture. Yet it’s just as critical.

Cutting methane emissions

About 44 per cent of the country’s methane emissions come from upstream oil and gas facilities. Cutting these industry emissions not only improves environmental performance, it saves operating costs. And this opportunity has never been as important as in today’s economy, with added pressure on producers to invest capital dollars strategically. Not to mention the fact the clock is ticking as operators work to meet federal and Alberta government regulations to reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025.

How to reduce methane emissions?

Experts like Soheil Asgarpour, who studies technology developments in the oil patch, say the industry is making solid progress and steadily closing in on the 2025 target. “Things are moving in the right direction. Already, just through technologies developed through PTAC, the industry has built enough technology capacity to reduce methane emissions by more than 35 per cent, and that’s improving,” says Asgarpour, who heads up Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC), a Calgary-based non-profit focused on hydrocarbon cleantech and innovation.

In this case, Asgarpour is referring to PTAC’s latest estimate of collective capacity to reduce methane based on an increasing number of proven, field-tested technologies developed through PTAC’s consortia.

Research and development

To create this capacity, Asgarpour says the industry has invested substantially in research and development (R&D), just through PTAC’s own planned activities. Much of this effort is focused on finding technologies that will enable operators to reduce methane emissions better and cheaper.
“Industry wants to not only reduce methane emissions but find technologies to reduce operating costs,” Asgarpour explains.

Helping industry do this is a growing number of tech startups offering improvements to processes, equipment and technology. A directory, published in February this year by PTAC and Global Affairs Canada, lists nearly 60 Western Canadian companies providing a variety of methane detection and reduction products and services to oil and gas producers whose aim is to penetrate global markets.

Reducing methane emissions and staying profitable

“These are Canadian entrepreneurs who have developed innovative solutions to address methane emissions in the local market. They are exporting technologies and services to improve profitability in oil and gas production while reducing methane emissions,” Asgarpour says.

One of those is Calgary-based LCO Technologies. The company has invented a high-efficiency drive system that requires a fraction of traditional solar power and allows companies to eliminate methane emissions from chemical injection pumps and pneumatic instruments.

Another Calgary company, Questor Technology, offers an innovative combustor that collects and converts methane gas into less intensive impacts like carbon dioxide (CO2), water vapor and heat.

NEXT Compression in Rocky View County, Alberta, has developed a vapor recovery compression technology to help gas plants and refineries reduce or eliminate fugitive methane emissions. And other companies are working on solutions at earlier stages of development. 

“Our vision is that by next year the industry will have enough collective technology capacity to reach the 2025 target, in time to give operators several years to implement different methodologies,” Asgarpour says. 

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